IN reaching last year’s All-Ireland SHC final, Cork played five games, with defeats to Limerick bookending victories over Clare, Dublin and Kilkenny.
The shorter campaign was a result of the impact that Covid had on the GAA’s scheduling and now, with things back to normal, the Rebels have already played five championship matches before Sunday’s quarter-final clash against Galway in FBD Semple Stadium (1.45pm).
This time, the defeats were front-loaded, losses to Limerick and Clare leaving Kieran Kingston’s side on the verge of elimination, but wins over Waterford, Tipperary and Antrim have turned matters around. Kingston is happy to have matched the 2021 statistics, but now he wants to surpass them.
“It had been a while since Cork had picked up three wins in the All-Ireland series,” he says, “I think it was 2005 up to last year.
"Of course, last year’s experience of going through the campaign and the momentum you get and the confidence you get from winning together are important things.
“The challenge now and our objective is to build on that further, against a top team that are going to pose a massive test, there’s no doubt about that. We have to match that.”
The game comes just seven days after Cork’s 11-point win over Antrim, having had a three-week break before that match since beating Tipp in the last Munster round-robin encounter. Is there a better or worse gap to have between outings?
“Momentum is good,” Kingston says, “and if you were to write the script, you’d say that a two-week turnaround is ideal time.
“If you’re coming off a win, you can get a bit of downtime and get back at it and get a good block of training in. If you’re coming off a loss, the two weeks is good because it gives you that time to recover and get the freshness back into it.
“Two weeks is probably ideal and three is too long! But they’re the cards you’re dealt, every team has to deal with that. No matter what group you’re coming out of or what stage you’re at, teams have different turnaround times – two, three, even four weeks for provincial winners. That’s not an issue.
“Any time you play Galway, any time you play an All-Ireland quarter-final, both teams are going to go at it hammer and tongs anyway.”
Galway are likely to be wounded animals after topping the Leinster table only to lose disappointingly to Kilkenny in the provincial decider a fortnight ago.
While Cianán Fahy has been cleared to play after originally being handed a suspension on the basis of video evidence, Brian Concannon is a major doubt for the Tribesmen with a groin injury.
Regardless of who is available for Henry Shefflin’s team, Kingston expects a tough game but ultimately the focus is on Cork.
“Whether Galway had played outstandingly or won or lost it, whatever the case may be,” he says, “any team you’re meeting at this stage are going to come hammer and tongs and that’s the bottom line.
“This game is going to be no different and we accept that. Our approach has to be the same – our focus this week is to rest and recover, get a bit of training done and get ready for a huge game on Saturday.
“We’re down to the last six and it’s great to be there but our ambition is to go further. On Saturday, we want to do ourselves justice and put in a performance that reflects the occasion, which is an All-Ireland quarter-final in Thurles, a double-header with a full house.”