Tom Kenny: Cork hurlers need to stay focused for trip to Antrim

The template that saw Cork beat Waterford and Tipperary with the right attitude and direct hurling must be maintained
Tom Kenny: Cork hurlers need to stay focused for trip to Antrim

Cork's Tom Kenny and Shane McNaughton of Antrim battling in the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

THE Cork hurlers will be looking to post a third consecutive championship win of the season when they journey to the glens of Antrim for this week's All-Ireland pre-quarter-final. 

If, as expected, the Rebels deliver, it would make it nine wins in nine outings against the Ulster county.

Games between the sides have been straightforward through the corridors of time and whilst Antrim will be respected, it is a task that Cork will be expected to overcome with something to spare despite the northerners producing some creditable performances in recent years, particularly in the Allianz League.

The last time the sides met in 2010 in the All-Ireland quarter-final Cork posted a nine-point winning margin: 1-25 to 0-19. It was a much closer encounter than the clash six years earlier which saw the Rebels romp to the 2-26 to 0-10 success, also in the quarter-final stage.

The upcoming game gives Cork a real opportunity to continue the feelgood factor which has developed following the team's excellent back-to-back wins over Waterford and Tipperary.

Tom Kenny, who lined out at midfield the last time the counties crossed camáns in 2010, is one of the former stars who has certainly been impressed with the side's development.

"Before the Waterford game, Cork had the option to stick or twist. In fairness to the management team, they took the latter option, put Ciarán Joyce at centre-back, moved Mark Coleman to the wing and then had the extra move of bringing Tim O'Mahony into the forward line. 

"Cork brought great courage, great fight and as historians would say they brought great 'blood and bandage' to the game in Walsh Park. Leaders like Seamie Harnedy, Conor Lehane and Ciarán Joyce, even though he's so young, stood up.

"Looking at the Tipperary game, the first 10 minutes was a difficult period for Cork. Who knows what might have happened if Tipperary had scored from that penalty? But from there on Cork had a fantastic performance, they had a real fight and had leaders to the fore. Much of that template is what Cork need now going forward in the championship campaign."

The Grenagh man says that the same battling qualities will be certainly needed in the weeks ahead. 

I would say the same again exactly: they need to fight hard, show real courage and a ruthless streak. 

"They have gained valuable experience from the last number of years and from championship defeats this year. Who knows what might happen this year?"

As previously stated the past clashes of Cork and Antrim have gone as expected. Significantly Cork defeated Antrim in some landmark years. In the double-winning season of 1990, they accounted for Antrim by 2-20 to 1-13 in the Croke Park semi-final, while in the Centenary campaign of 1984 the lopsided semi-final concluded in a 3-26 to 2-5 win.

The history books also show that Cork captained by Mick Kennefick romped to a 5-16 to 0-4 victory in their only All-Ireland final meeting in 1943 as they won part three of a four-in-a-row. Overall, the most interesting result in the eight-game saga between the counties came in 1986 when Antrim ran Cork to just five points in the All-Ireland semi-final, as the game ended 7-11 to 1-24. 

HAT-TRICK

Jimmy Barry-Murphy scored three of the Cork goals with Ger Fitzgerald striking on the double and Tómas Mulchay and Kevin Hennessy also raising green flags. Antrim took a lot of credit from the game and most of the squad went on to be part of their side that reached the All-Ireland final three years later.

Cork have in fact gone on to win the All-Ireland in four of the eight years that they have beaten Antrim in the championship. Could a similar scenario develop this year?

Looking at the big picture Tom Kenny says that Limerick's great run will end sometime and it might be this year.

Their last defeat was in the summer of 2019 to Kilkenny. Like all great teams, Limerick can't keep winning forever. 

"I believe that this Cork team is now best equipped in the championship to right the wrongs of previous years and possibly get one over on Limerick. 

"Only time will tell, but from here on in, if Cork bring the same performance level that they brought against Waterford and Tipperary, they could go a long way in this championship yet."

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