CORK manager Kieran Kingston hailed the character of his players as they kept their championship aspirations alive with a win over Waterford at Walsh Park yesterday.
However, ahead of another make-or-break clash against Tipperary next weekend, Kingston is keen to ensure that the performance shown in a 2-22 to 1-19 win is backed up to ensure progression to the All-Ireland series.
“We’re obviously relieved, pleased,” he said.
“This was a backs-to-the-wall game – the stats speak for themselves, if we didn’t win today, we were out.
“I’m proud of the attitude of the players and the performance that they gave. We trained really well coming into this game, but then we trained really well coming into the Clare game too and we didn’t transfer it for the first 20, 25 minutes.
“Today, we transferred it from the off and we needed to. The most pleasing thing for me was that the lads played for each other, they played for the jersey, they played for the supporters that were here, they played for us. They showed great unity and purpose in their approach to the game.
“They gave it their all, they played with their heart and soul and got a result out of it but we’ve got to keep that in context. This was great, it was a season-defining game in many respects and winning it keeps us alive but that’s all it does, it keeps us alive.
“Next Sunday is a huge game now again because we have to back it up – if we don’t do that, we’re out of the championship anyway.”
Tim O’Mahony had been named at right half-back but, carrying an injury, was kept in reserve, brought on at full-forward in the 40th minute for Patrick Horgan. He had an impact, with the team benefiting from his ability to play in different roles.
“Tim had an injury during the week and just wouldn’t be able to play 70 minutes so we couldn’t risk him,” he said. “We might get 30 [minutes] was the best-case scenario.
"At the time we were solid enough in the back line at that particular juncture so he gave us a good target coming down the stretch.”
While it was a disappointing day overall for Horgan, he scored four frees for Cork to become the highest-scoring player in hurling championship history with a tally of 22-505. Kingston paid tribute to Horgan’s achievements and hopes to see more.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “To have done what he has done, for hurling, and not just in Cork, and what he continues to do.
“He’s a player who has only played in two All-Ireland finals throughout his career, but still has that record of scoring – it’s an incredible achievement. An incredible achievement. We all express our congratulations and thanks, for what he has done and what he continues to do.”
For Cork, it’s a return to Thurles, where they lost to Waterford in the league final and Clare in the championship. While the Cork support in Walsh Park was not plentiful, it was loud and Kingston will hope for more of the same.
“Tickets were hard to come by,” he said, “there was a huge Waterford crowd but one of the players said afterwards, we thought there was 10,000 Cork people because coming down the stretch it was like there was 10,000.
“I’m not sure how many Cork people were here but by God did they make their voices felt. It was super. The game was down to three points coming down the stretch.
“To have the crowd roaring you on was really, really important to us. We really appreciated those loyal supporters who did come down.”