John Horgan: Famine goes on as does hunger to know why Cork keep getting it wrong on big days

Rebel hurling faithful feel like they're back to square one after a quarter-final exit in Thurles
John Horgan: Famine goes on as does hunger to know why Cork keep getting it wrong on big days

Galway’s Fintan Burke and Robbie O’Flynn of Cork battling for possession on Saturday. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

ANOTHER year has been added to Cork’s All-Ireland hurling famine, the 17 years since the Liam MacCarthy Cup last visited Leeside has now been extended to 18.

No county has a divine right to anything but for a county of Cork’s stature with the small ball, that is a hell of a long time.

The inquests, the post-mortems, call them whatever you want are well underway into how it all went wrong in Thurles last Saturday.

They will continue for some time but then again there will be plenty of time for them as it will now be six or seven months before we see a Cork hurling team in action again.

Every reason under the sun will be given for the latest championship loss to Galway but at the end of the day, there can be few complaints.

Save for one very good day in Walsh Park against the team looked upon as the most likely to challenge Limerick’s dominance, the championship campaign for Kieran Kingston’s team has been desperately disappointing.

Yes, they did well to get themselves back into the frame in Munster after two chastening defeats to Limerick and Clare and they sealed third place in the province by defeating what has to stated was one of the worst Tipperary teams for quite some time.

They got the job done against Antrim as was expected but they didn’t ignite to any great extent in that 70 minutes of hurling in Belfast.

OPTIMISM

But hope always springs eternal where Cork hurling supporters are concerned and there was plenty of optimism among them as they headed to the old ground in Tipperary to face a Galway side that hadn’t created too many headlines of their own.

Cork’s concession of a very soft goal before there was a minute on the clock was the worst possible start but coming so early the belief was that the mistake would be rectified in time.

As it ultimately turned out it wasn’t and thereafter Cork were chasing the game.

Not much went right for Cork in the opening 35 minutes and aside from the concession of the brace of goals, scorable frees were squandered, likewise, very good goal-scoring chances and far too many players were off-colour, making very little impact.

Cork selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan and manager Kieran Kingston in Thurles. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher
Cork selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan and manager Kieran Kingston in Thurles. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

All this was happening while Patrick Horgan was sitting on the sideline when he should have been on the field and converting some of those missed chances.

He was on after the interval and made an immediate impact, nailing some very good points from the dead ball and a fine effort from open play. 

The bottom line here was, the Glen man should have been on from the outset.

The Cork substitutes worked the oracle without doubt.

Alan Cadogan posted three excellent points and it was a mystery why a player of his experience wasn’t seen earlier in the championship. Ger Millerick justified his introduction too and Jack O’Connor got involved when he got the call.

The most disappointing aspect of the entire exercise in Semple’s field was that Cork were beaten by a Galway team that were no great shakes themselves.

They deserve great credit, however, for how Henry Shefflin reinvented them after the Leinster final loss to Kilkenny and they did respond well every time Cork appeared to be getting a handle on them.

But there won’t be too many in their corner when they face the country’s best team, the men in green, on Sunday week.

Cork left far too many scores behind them in the opening half and their wide count in that period was way off the standard required at this level of the game. And when you get into the knockout territory of an All-Ireland quarter-final you need players in double figures that are playing at the top end of their game.

That didn’t happen either, far from it in fact and only a handful of players made the desired impact. Not enough of the more experienced hands did either.

Robbie O’Flynn, Ciarán Joyce and Darragh Fitzgibbon were the best of the starters and Horgan and Cadogan shared seven points off the bench. Of course, the obvious question to pose now is, where to from here?

GREAT SERVICE

Will the older players like Seamie Harnedy, Horgan, Damien Cahalane and Conor Lehane give it another lash to try and get their hands on the medal that their great service deserves?

The players who secured back-to-back All-Ireland U20 titles will be a year older and wiser and some of them must get their fling in 2023.

We saw how intense Clare were when their backs were to the wall against Wexford, particularly in the final 15 minutes or so. They found a way after the concession of two goals that might have broken a lesser team.

Cork did not exhibit that when it really mattered and not for the first time there was not nearly enough consistency over the 70-odd minutes.

A lot of effort, genuine effort, went into this Cork squad over the last seven or eight months but in the cold light of day they came up too short on too many occasions and losing three major championship games is proof of that.

It’s going to be another winter of discontent for Cork hurling folk and plenty of time to ponder why the now very lengthy famine continues.

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