John Horgan on hurling: Cork's attitude was big takeaway from Tipp rally

Rebels lifted the preseason silverware which puts them on a solid footing heading into the league proper
John Horgan on hurling: Cork's attitude was big takeaway from Tipp rally

Cork players after defeating Tipperary in the Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE most pleasing aspect of Cork's victory over Tipperary in the final of the Munster Hurling League was the character and attitude exhibited.

The Premier looked to be on their way to securing the season's early bragging rights when they held an eight-point lead entering the final 20 minutes. Of course, recent history has illustrated that a big lead in hurling can be wiped out in a matter of minutes and no matter how great one team's advantage over the other might be, it can be erased very quickly.

QUICK

A couple of quick goals can completely change the complexion of the game and that is exactly what transpired at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday.

When Cork seemed to be heading for the losing dressing room, Pat Ryan and his management team made their move on the sideline, introducing the two or three players that would change the course of a game that hadn't exactly ignited to any great extent prior to that. On came Conor Lehane, Jack O'Connor and Brian Hayes and between them, they contributed a brace of goals and an equal tally in points.

This was the second goal in two games from the young Barrs player and despite the fact that he is only in the early stages of infancy where inter-county hurling is concerned, he is a player with undoubted potential and in a position that needs to be properly nailed down. Very early days, of course, but his confidence levels will certainly have benefited from the recent outings.

O'Connor took his goal well too and a final three-goal tally will have pleased the management in advance of the more serious business of the national league.

The secondary competition is now less than two weeks away and when Limerick come to town next Saturday week the stakes will be much higher than they have been for the last few weeks.

However, new team boss Ryan could not have asked for too much more from the players that he sent out in the four preseason games, the three Munster League encounters and the Canon O'Brien Cup. He will certainly have been delighted with the attitude, particularly against Limerick and more so against Tipperary.

At various stages in the second half of those games, things did not look altogether rosy for the home team but when the bigger questions were posed, they came up with the answers.

The management will now reflect on the happenings of the first month of the year and look at the positives and the negatives. Underfoot conditions and the greasy ball made things difficult last Sunday and there were times when Tipp's physicality was greater.

 Cork's Colin Walsh lays off the ball from Tipperary's Conor McCarthy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Colin Walsh lays off the ball from Tipperary's Conor McCarthy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork did go too long in the second half without registering a score but that was offset by the rousing finish that was put in and entering the game's dying embers there was a noticeable desire that they wanted to complete the comeback after that eight-point deficit.

For a few fleeting minutes, it was a genuine Cork, Tipp encounter and the home support helped in the contribution to the win and the trophy that accompanied it.

It might well be a case of, from small acorns grow much bigger oaks but that's very much a wait-and-see situation at this juncture. Winter hurling, particularly in the month of January and all that goes with it can paint a very distorted picture but it is what it is.

Over the past few weeks, however, a nice bit of momentum has been constructed by the players at the disposal of the management.

Quite a few of the almost nailed-on starters for the much bigger assignments have been marked absent, mainly because of injury concerns and that has given others their opportunity to extend their stay in the panel Pre-season is always a time when many are called but when everything is assessed only a few might be chosen.

Of the players that we have seen over the few weeks, some have put their hand up more than others and in the key positions of full-back and full-forward, Rob Downey and Brian Hayes have caught the eye quite a bit. 

The one thing, however, that can be said of all the players that were called up, every one of them showed a great attitude and a desire to wear the Cork jersey. 

Cork have not had a great record in the Munster League in terms of getting their hands on the silverware but in the past, the competition has served other counties well and it has been a forerunner to greater glories.

The management will be delighted that the support for the team remains as great as ever and when it might have been easier to focus on the other attractions that were on TV, they came out in large numbers on a fairly nasty day in January.

SUBLIME

We must mention too the early contribution of goalkeeper Patrick Collins who split the sticks sublimely with two wonderful very long-range points from the dead ball, two quite magnificent scores, something that could be very important going forward.

What it all boils down to now for the management is putting the league squad in place and ensuring that come the championship the blend is right and that key pivotal positions have the stability that hasn't been there often enough in recent seasons, particularly down the middle.

What of Tipp? New boss, Liam Cahill will have been happy enough with how things were going until Cork staged their late show and their subs had the desired effect.

Cahill will be disappointed to lose a game that they looked to be very much in control of but similar to Cork, the task is similar, having the house fully functional when the championship questions have to be answered. 

The national league will reveal a lot more, the approach to it too but for Cork now, it's been a positive enough opening inning to the season.

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