AFTER beginning the Allianz Hurling League with four straight wins, Cork have lost four of their last five matches.
While the Wexford clash at the end of the league could be written off as both sides had qualified for the semi-finals – Cork bounced back with a win over Kilkenny in the last four – defeat in the decider against Waterford was a setback but not one was terminal.
However, that was followed with losses against Limerick and Clare in the first two Munster SHC games and now the team stand on the brink of elimination if they fall to Waterford again tomorrow in Walsh Park.
Confidence in the camp could be low, but manager Kieran Kingston believes that there is enough expertise in the backroom to ensure that that is not an issue.
“These guys are inter-county hurlers,” he says, “that’s what they do, that’s why they play the game.
“We’ve a serious backroom team, between Gary Keegan working with us, Dónal O’Grady, Sully [Diarmuid O’Sullivan], Pat Mulcahy, Noel [Furlong] – they’ve a very strong group behind them, who’ve gone through the good and bad of hurling as coaches, managers and players.
“The sharing of that experience with them is invaluable from those lads. Dónal, as a previous manager, Sully as a player, Pat Mul as a former captain and player and Gary Keegan obviously giving his experience. There’s a lot of good stuff there that they can tap into and we’ve used that quite well.
“It’s a big game for both teams – it’s a massive game for Waterford as well, a game they’re expected to win. We know it’s a huge game for us.”
If Cork lose, then a significant occurrence might be missed by many – Patrick Horgan needs just one point to move ahead of Joe Canning at the top of the all-time hurling scoring charts. His former team-mate, goalkeeper Anthony Nash, hopes that it’s something that receives due respect.
“I’m not expecting Walsh Park to flood in on top of Hoggy or anything like that but I hope – please God, he’s injury-free and on the field – that a lot will be made of it because it’s an unbelievable achievement,” he said.
“To have the longevity of his career, to have the pressures, to have seasons where we went out early. He’s one of my best friends and I can remember the first time I played against him.
“Duhallow U21s were playing the Glen in Éire Óg and it was my age so he was only 16. Twenty minutes into the game, a Glen forward got injured and it was the worst thing that could have happened to us because this 16-year-old wonderkid jogged onto the field, a fella I had only heard stories about.
“First ball in, he spun it over the corner-back’s head – I’ve never seen anything like it again – and I was almost willing the shot in, he buried it past me in the bottom corner! Since then, I’ve followed his career and I was saying, ‘This guy is going to be a superstar.’ I’m delighted for him and his family that this is going to happen.
“Yes, it’s not the be-all and the end-all, it’s an individual accolade but it’s still fantastic to do what he’s going to do. I hope that people like yourselves and everyone out there make a deal of it because it’s a huge thing for a fella to do.
“He deserves it, he lives hurling. There are so many things spoken about him but I’ve seen him work up close.
"The reason I used to do that was because he was out there with me.
“The time he puts in – everything in his life is hurling. I saw a picture of him there last year walking around Dingle with his wife and sure he had the hurley in his hand in the hills above Dingle!
“It’s huge for him and, please God, barring an injury, he gets it done this weekend.”