JOB done and now we move on to the qualifiers and can do so in confident form after finishing the round-robin series with two good wins.
Cork could face Kerry in the qualifiers, pending on the result of their game against Antrim, and wouldn’t it be nice to get the better of the Kingdom and a little bit of revenge for the football losses to them this season.
There were many who doubted Cork ahead of the Waterford game and they had plenty of reasons to do so, but in that encounter, the Rebels showed all that is good about hurling in the county and that set them up nicely for the clash with Tipp.
The big question was, could they back it up with another impressive display?
Five minutes in and the huge Cork crowd would have been a little nervous but in Man of the Match Conor Lehane, we had someone who simply said – not today lads.
Seamus Harnedy led by example against the Deise and this time it was the turn of Lehane to show his class. Six points in the first half and he should have had a goal at the start of the second.
Add in a number of brilliant saves from Patrick Collins and when a keeper does that it inspires all those in front of him.
We had barely time to catch our breath and the ball was in the back of the net at the other end and you would almost see the confidence drain from Tipp.
By now the chant of ‘Rebels, Rebels’ was resounding around Semple Stadium as Cork had at least two-thirds of the 27,000 present.
It has been a bad year for Tipp but it was a pity to see such a small crowd there to support the team that were All-Ireland champions just a few short years ago in 2019.
Another surprise was just how easily Clare turned Waterford over, especially with all the changes the home side made. A week ago I was talking to a few people involved with the Waterford ladies footballers and even before the game started they fancied Cork to beat the Deise.
Their predicament was based on the league form and they felt that bar the final, Waterford hadn’t come up against any side that was trying too hard and that come the championship they were going to be in trouble. To be fair to them they were proved right, not that they were too happy about it.
Outside of Limerick and Clare, there are plenty of others who will have a say in the championship yet and that includes the Rebels. We have been down the qualifier route more than once and have enjoyed success that way. Who will forget the trip to Killarney in 2004 to take on Tipp in the qualifiers, which ended in style at Croke Park as the Rebels stopped the Cats bid for three in a row.
Kieran Kingston and his management team will know that there is plenty of work to be done yet and that all they have done in the last two games is restore confidence in the side and a base to drive forward from.
They will know the work rate, physicality, and style of play shown in those games are the very least needed for the road ahead.
But there is plenty to be positive about as the likes of Ciarán Joyce is now settling into his role, with Mark Coleman showing form of old beside him. Robert Downey is looking good at fullback and Damien Cahalane also impressed over the last two outings.
Having the option of bringing in Tim O’Mahony into the forward line has been another boost and his goal was the icing on the cake for Cork and are we now looking at our centre- or full-forward from now on? It has been debated by many that he is better off up front and the last two games have backed that point up.
So our summer goes on and after the first two rounds not too many would have been optimistic about that, but when their backs were to the wall this team showed they weren’t going to go down without a fight and that Rebel spirit has seen them through.
Roll on the qualifiers it could be a long summer yet!