independent

Friday 18 August 2017

Fans believe and so do players

Diarmuid Sheehan senses that something exciting is happening with this Cork team and is enjoying the journey,no matter the final destination

Rebel hurling is on the march. And not before time. If NASA had been using one of its satellites to take pictures of southern Ireland on Sunday morning it would have noticed one of the main arteries of the state, the M8, pumping to capacity to get all those in red and white from various parts of the country to the heart of Irish hurling, Thurles.

On the day driving from Mallow to Thurles it was hard to believe that you were not part of something special, something bigger than sport, it was tens of thousands of people decked out in various different outfits, all dominated by blood red.

From early morning, a motorway that is more often than not operating at less than capacity facilitated an access for a success starved Rebel Army to their first Munster Final in Thurles in quite some time.

A trip that was often considered more of an annual weekend away for Cork fans in years gone has in more recent times been seen as more of once in a decade experience, such is the level of change that the county's hurlers have had to endure in more recent times.

Bus companies, publicans and hat and flag sellers have all missed Cork hurling fans on the move. The numbers that support the county's hurling sides when they are losing has always been impressive, but when the senior hurlers are on the charge then the sea of red that takes to the roads is unrivalled in GAA circles.

The GAA is more than Cork hurling, but there is little doubt that the organisation needs the Rebels to be in contention. There is nothing like a starvation diet to whet the appetite and Cork have gone through more than their fair share of years without major silverware.

The county has brought the provincial title home to Leeside on more than a sea of emotion, much more in fact, however that will to win from the stands on Sunday had to have played a part in the win.

Many looked on in amazement when Cork fans took to the field when the hurlers beat Tipp in the Quarter-final and again after the semi-final win over Waterford - the side had nothing in the bank yet the fans were elated - now the pitch invasion is more than justified and the fans had every right to storm the barricades on Sunday to salute their heroes.

From the county's hurlers demolition of Clare in the minor game - which was followed by a lap of honour I am sure none will ever forget - to the adults taking the big prize in style, Cork hurling had a day it won't want to forget for quite some time.

From the moment the senior teams emerged from the tunnel to take their pre-game routine it was clear that the stands and terraces would demand just one result. It is hard to put the difference in support to anything more accurate than a hunch however if one said somewhere between three and four to one in favour of the Blood and Bandage you couldn't be far out.

The numbers advantage on the terraces had its impact on the pitch as Cork players fed off the support they were getting from the fans.

Cork were magnificent on the day, in fact they have been brilliant all championship so where did it come from?

Well from the off the intensity was right, the plan was right and the way it was executed was spot on. Cork were never behind, brought level a few times but never behind - and in truth never deserved to be behind.

The men in red were like men possessed, they were throwing all their chips in and whatever came their way would be dealt with. Victory as it happens was what came their way and victory is what they deserved.

The pitch invasion was yet another release from the fans and it was appreciated by the players. There is a bond being created here between those on and off the pitch and it looks to be heading into uncharted territory.

Cork fans believe and so do the players and with that combination all buying into what Kieran Kingston is trying to do Cork may well be unstoppable. Time will tell if that is the case but one thing is for certain - hurling has just got a whole lot more interesting.

Corkman

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