While Blackrock manager Louis Mulqueen may not necessarily choose for every game to require a late winning flourish, the Clare native enjoyed his first involvement in Cork championship hurling.
On Saturday night in Páirc Uí Rinn, Alan Connolly scored 1-2 in injury time to give the 2020 Co-op SuperStores Premier SH champions a 1-15 to 0-17 victory over Sarsfields. Sars had missed a penalty in the closing stages, when a goal would have put them five clear, but Blackrock never lay down, even when trailing by four as injury time began.
“I’ve been watching a few matches – league matches and even last night [Friday] – the intensity and the rivalry in Cork hurling is savage,” Mulqueen said.
“You watch the game before us, Glen and Erin’s Own, and there’s nothing between any of the teams. Coming into this game, you knew there was a rivalry and that there wasn’t much between us but nobody could tell me before the game who was going to win.
“That’s the thing we like about hurling – it’s the buzz, the unexpected, but it’s a serious challenge. The group that we’re in, you could win or you could lose any of the matches.
“That match summed it up. We were dead and buried, the penalty should have killed us and the game was over. What I liked was, while it wasn’t our best hurling or the best way we wanted to play, we didn’t panic, we kept calm and the spirit came through in the end.
“We got over the line with workrate and taking a chance or two near the end. That’s what won the game for us.
“When we pulled to a draw, I would have taken it, like any manager. That was the big satisfaction that we got out of it – to win a game that was gone.”
Connolly finished with 1-9 but Mulqueen feels that there is more to come, while acknowledging that it’s not easy for inter-county stars to automatically turn it on when the club scene recommences.
“Alan’s first 40 minutes weren’t up to his own high standards and he knows that as well as I do,” he said.
“When he came into the game for us, it was the difference between winning and losing. The goal and point that he took was the changing of the game and, when you have someone as good as Alan, a star player, you’re hoping to get something.
“I think the hangover coming back from county level is serious and you don’t realise that unless you’re involved in it. You’re training for six months, maybe nine, and even though you’re finished a few weeks ago, you’re physically and mentally tired.
“The club scene this year came very quick – even in Limerick, there were fellas playing this weekend, two weeks after winning the All-Ireland.”
It means that Blackrock – who qualified for the RedFM Hurling League Division 1 final as a result of winning this match, too – can all but qualify for the latter stages if they beat St Finbarr’s next week. Easier said than done though, as Mulqueen is well aware.
“I was watching Charleville and the Barrs, another very close game, and there wasn’t much between the two teams,” he said.
“You’re looking at a group where anyone can take points off anyone and next weekend, all four have something to play for.
“Tonight was obviously interesting too in that it put us into a league final. It was worth the drive down for excitement like that – the journey home will be shorter!”