John Horgan on hurling: Patrick Horgan showed why he should never have been dropped

Rebels dug out a win against Limerick on Saturday night when the oldest player on the pitch was their best performer
John Horgan on hurling: Patrick Horgan showed why he should never have been dropped

Cork’s Patrick Horgan with Ronan Connolly of Limerick in his MVP display last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

A GOOD start can sometimes be half the battle, well that's the theory anyway.

If that is the case, Cork hurling boss Pat Ryan will be satisfied with how the season has begun, a season, it must be stressed, that is still very much in the early stages of infancy.

There has been a common denominator in the three games that Cork have played over the past number of weeks.

Against Limerick and Tipperary in the Munster League and Limerick again in the national league opener last Saturday night, Cork were on the back foot at various stages in all three games, at half-time and as the games further aged.

They seemed to be heading for a loss, particularly in the Munster League final against Tipp and again on Saturday night.

In both games, their opponents held an eight-point advantage and looked to be very much in the driving seat.

But, to their great credit, Cork managed to reinvent themselves to manufacture a victory in both and in doing so they exhibited a very positive attitude and an abundant character.

In the aftermath of those games team boss Ryan spoke in glowing terms of that type of attitude and a refusal to yield when it seemed that the cause was being lost.

Cork manager Pat Ryan. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cork manager Pat Ryan. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

At half-time against the country's best team in the national league opener Cork seemed to be in a fair bit of bother, Limerick had taken over completely in the period leading up to the break, firing over some splendid points that gave them a fairly substantial advantage going to the dressing room.

Of course, a big lead can be quickly erased in a game of hurling and that has been illustrated on a fair number of occasions in recent years.

However, the portents did not look great for Cork after the opening 35 minutes, wayward shooting was costing them, shot selection too at times was questionable and not enough players, particularly in the attack were putting up their hand.

When they resumed, however, the complexion of the contest changed fairly dramatically, a couple of excellent goals, scores that were hammered home with great conviction, firstly by Robbie O'Flynn and subsequently by Deccie Dalton.

In both cases the invention and execution were a joy to behold.

A number of other players, most notably Patrick Horgan and Ciaran Joyce thundered into the game. 

Horgan one more time in the Autumn of a wonderful career showing that he remains an integral part of Cork's starting team.

Many might have raised an eyebrow at his comments last week when he had a pop at the previous management for dropping him, particularly against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

From this observer's viewpoint and many others, he was quite entitled to his make those remarks and they were very much in agreement. He stood up to be counted again when it really mattered on Saturday night and that's what all the greats do.

Joyce was imperious in defence, illustrating again that Cork's defensive formation will be built around him for many years to come.

Of the newcomers, some did better than others. Eoin Downey had every reason to be very satisfied wit his opening innings at full-back, curbing the threat of Seamus Flanagan and also contributing on the board with a fine point. Brian Roche was always industrious and Con O'Callaghan did nothing wrong.

The introduction of the second-half subs energised the proceedings and Shane Kingston will be a key figure again going forward.

Maybe Dalton should have been the long-range free-taker on a couple of occasions but overall the performance, particularly in the second half, was encouraging.


Of course, it was a similar outcome last season in the league joust between the teams but that encouraging start wasn't carried forward to the degree that was required.

Pat Ryan will park this result quickly, John Kiely won't lose too much sleep over the outcome and we witnessed at times during the game that this Limerick squad of players will be the team that all the rest will have to try and match going forward.

Some of the scores that they got on Saturday night came far too easy, Gearoid Hegarty getting too much space too often.

The occasion itself on the first Saturday in February was very atmospheric, the attendance was staggering and it was another illustration of why hurling means so much to the Cork public.

Despite the lean times, their support has not diminished and whilst it was only a league game in early Spring, walking out of the stadium afterwards there was a noticeable spring in the step of those clad in red.

Both sides were without key players who will be the first to be pencilled in when the championship comes around and it will be whole different scenario when that happens.

The experimentation process is likely to continue throughout the league and a few more of the new additions to the squad will get their opportunity. And that's the way it should be, players desperate to get into the championship match days squads.

In his after-match review, Pat Ryan said he could not ask for more from the players he has at his disposal right now. It must be noted too that a lot of them are double jobbing as well with their involvement in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

Overall, this was a league opener that contained quite a lot, some fine individual displays with Horgan showing the way, two very well executed goals, a fine riposte from the home side when the chips were down and a thrilling finish that came close to championship fare.

The one negative was the injury to Robbie O'Flynn and fingers will be crossed for him because he's now a major figure in this Cork attack.

The windy venue of Salthill is next on the agenda, which will be important in its own right, Galway coming in with their own bit of positivity after their adventure in Wexford Park.

For Cork, though, a start has been made on what will be a long and searching journey and that's all you can ask for this week.

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