John Horgan on hurling: Wasted chances will haunt Rebels for some time

Cork paid the price again for letting their opponents build up an early lead
John Horgan on hurling: Wasted chances will haunt Rebels for some time

CONSOLATION: Galway manager Henry Shefflin with Sean O'Donoghue after the game in Thurles. Picture: Ray McManus, Sportsfile

JUST a quartet of teams now remain in the chase for the Liam MacCarthy Cup and Cork are, sadly, not included in that four.

The old adage of having to lose an All-Ireland final to win one did not apply where Cork were concerned and not even getting back into Croke Park this time has to be viewed as a major disappointment.

Now it’s down to Limerick, Clare, Kilkenny and Galway to find the resolution that will bring the old trophy back to their county.

So, you might ask, why are Cork not among them?

There are various reasons, not being clinical enough against Galway last weekend was certainly one of them and there were far too many opportunities squandered in that game, enough, in fact, to have won two games.

However, it must also be factored in that the goal chances that were not executed were down in no small way to a few fine saves that were made by Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy.

The Cork management was not happy with a few decisions that did not go their way, one of them being a free not being awarded to Seamie Harnedy for a shoulder by Daithi Burke on him in the latter stages of the game.

Again, there are contrasting opinions on that incident and it was interesting to read the comments by former top referee Brian Gavin in last Monday’s Irish Examiner on that topic.

“As for Burke’s shoulder on Harnedy, it was a collision I would love to have reffed. It was definitely a perfect shoulder. It was vital that he met Harnedy straight. Those are the type of genuine well-timed ferocious hits that you want to see." 

There will always be differences of opinion in relation to any incidents relating to a shoulder from one player to another. This one went Galway’s way and it was an incident that certainly merited a lot of debate afterwards.

At the end of the day, one of the primary reasons why there is no extension to Cork’s summer was the lack of consistency from game to game and within games too.

Too much leeway was afforded to teams in some games, allowing teams to get a run on you too early and thereafter chasing the game that was ultimately lost.

Cork played six championship games over the past few months, winning three and losing three. That’s a 50% return and that will never be good enough to get you into contention for the ultimate prize.

There was a mixture of good, bad and indifferent where some of the performances were concerned with the obvious highlight being the terrific win in Walsh Park where the stakes were at their highest.

MIXED

The league victory over Limerick gave cause for greater optimism at the start of the season but conversely, the league final defeat to Waterford was a big let-down. The first half against Clare was nowhere near good enough but credit has to be given for the manner in which the team was reinvented which led to the victories in Walsh Park and against Tipperary.

The most galling aspect of the loss last Saturday was that this is no great Galway team, far from it in fact.

They may prove that theory wrong in the coming weeks but that’s highly unlikely, all the more so with Limerick coming out of the opposition corner next Sunday.

Then again, you just don’t know with Galway. They are one of the great enigmas of hurling, going from the sublime to the ridiculous and vice-versa.

But they are where they want to be now and John Kiely will ensure that there won’t be a shred of complacency in his team before and during that game.

One of the main positives for Cork over the course of the season has been the form of Ciarán Joyce, still just a lad of just 19 summers.

His teak toughness, his sense of intelligence on the ball and how well he has settled into a position that has been a problem for years have certainly illuminated this season of disappointment.

A LOT TO OFFER

The other main positives were, the consistent form of Robbie O’Flynn in attack, the return to top form of Darragh Fitzgibbon and as we saw last Saturday, Alan Cadogan still has a lot to offer Cork going forward.

Sean O’Donoghue did not have his best game against Galway but prior to that he was outstanding and is going to be a key defender in the red jersey for years to come.

Alan Connolly will have benefited from the season’s experience and will be an important player going forward too.

A few more of the successful U20 teams will get game time too and whilst things are maybe at a low now right now, you must always retain the hope and the cause must endure to its fullest.

Whether or not there is going to be a change of management remains to be seen now that Kieran Kingston’s three-year term has expired.

One thing, however, that needs to be said is that over the past three years, Kingston has left no stone unturned in his endeavours for Cork to be successful again on the bigger stage and for that the county owes him a debt of gratitude.

Things on the hurling front on Leeside will be quiet now for a few weeks before the championship season will get up and running and the search for new material that might have something to offer the county team begins.

And with regard to the manager and his team of selectors, whoever they are it will be imperative that personnel are in place sooner rather than later so that they can be out and about having a good, hard look at the players who will be on duty.

And maybe we’ll see the emergence of a few of them.

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