IN the heel of the hunt, the only statistic relating to the Cork hurlers’ season that anybody will care about is 18 years.
Even if Kieran Kingston’s side had gone a step further than 2021 and claimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup, it would still have been the longest drought between titles, eclipsing the 1903-1919 gap. Not wishing to add to the torpor but, assuming the football team don’t pull off an unlikely All-Ireland victory, we are now in the longest wait for a senior title across both codes, beating that of 1954-66 (there was a football win in 1911).
But, in another way, what has gone on since Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Graham Canty last lifted their respective trophies skyward is immaterial. The only thing influencing 2022 was what happened in 2022. Unfortunately for Cork, it was too reminiscent of the last ‘full’ season in 2019 – six games with a disappointing home defeat to start, an inspirational away victory against All-Ireland challengers, third place and a win over Joe McDonagh finalists before quarter-final defeat to the Leinster runners-up.
Seán O’Donoghue would have clocked the full 420 minutes but for an injury that required treatment during the opening loss to Limerick.
At the other end of the scale, Brian Roche’s championship debut against Waterford, amounting to a minute plus stoppages, was the briefest appearance. He was followed by Mark Keane (v Clare) and Alan Cadogan (v Galway) – both got seven minutes though with different fortunes as Keane was sent off whereas Cadogan, the 24th and last player used, managed three points during his cameo.
He was one of 15 players to get at least one score for Cork – and, while Patrick Horgan’s game-time was diminished compared to what we have come to expect, he still topped the Cork charts. After playing the full match against Limerick and Clare, Horgan started for 40 and 44 minutes against Waterford and Tipperary respectively but substitute appearances of nine minutes against Antrim and the full second half last Sunday.
It left him 15th in terms of time on the field – 268 minutes, or an average of nearly 45 minutes per game – but he landed 34 points (23 frees and 2 65s). Next was the man he replaced against Galway, Conor Lehane, with 1-26, 0-19 from play.
Aside from Horgan and Lehane, the only other Cork player to score in every game was Darragh Fitzgibbon, who contributed 3-9 from midfield. Robbie O’Flynn and Shane Kingston registered scores in five games out of six.
In total, Cork scored 12-137 – an approximate average of 28.8 points, albeit with a slight caveat for the 3-27 against Antrim – and conceded 8-134 (average 26.3). While it’s not a straight comparison as Leinster had six counties and was perceived as weaker than Munster, Wexford, the other side to play a preliminary quarter-final and then lose at the weekend, scored 14-150 but over seven games, so an average of 27.42 points, but conceded 5-140 (average 22.14).
The stats themselves will never tell the full story, of course. The Cork that lost to Limerick and Clare were too open and without a cutting edge, whereas there was marked improvement after that.
If Saturday’s game were to be played again, there is every chance that the costly mistakes wouldn’t be as prevalent, but that’s the hazard of knockout hurling.
Learning from the experience will be the key.