JIMMY Barry-Murphy was in upbeat mood following Cork's victory over UCC in the opening round of the Waterford Crystal Cup at the Mardyke last Saturday.
The Rebel boss said he was very satisfied with the performance overall, stating that the work-rate of the players was particularly encouraging and that the panel appears to be blending well at the moment.
"Everybody knows it's not an ideal time of the year for hurling, but we have to start somewhere, and we put up a good score in the heavy conditions today. I was very pleased with the attitude of all the players, it showed there's great morale in the camp, and I would like to think we are moving in the right direction," he said, adding that things are shaping up nicely in the build-up to the National League.
"It's going to be a very difficult campaign, because we have three of the five games away, and we are aware we will probably need to hit the ground running in the first one at home to Tipperary. We played a couple of challenge games prior to today, and this was a step-up again, so we are happy enough with the way things are going, although it's obviously a work in progress, and we will be reviewing the panel on an ongoing basis," he revealed.
With no fewer than 13 players with championship experience on the starting fifteen, Cork would have been expected to mark their first competitive game of the season with a win, but UCC didn't go down without a fight, as can be gauged from the fact that they trailed by just a point, 2-11 to 1-13, after 42 minutes. Inspired to a large extent by Pa Cronin and Paudie O'Sullivan, however, Cork eased to safety in the last quarter, and the outcome was never in doubt after Patrick Horgan rifled in a goal from a free to make it 3-13 to 1-13 in the 49th minute.
Cronin, appointed team captain for the season earlier in the week, exerted a significant influence at midfield in the second half when O'Sullivan also made a telling impact in attack. They notched 1-8 between them from play overall, with O'Sullivan grabbing a goal in the 31st. minute after expertly controlling a low ball to engineer the opening.
Preceded by a cracking strike from Patrick Horgan, who was put clean through after Michael Cussen smartly knocked a Stephen Moylan delivery into his path, it pushed Cork 2-8 to 0-9 ahead, and they were still five points to the good, 2-9 to 0-10, at half time. Cussen regularly caught the eye during his 52 minute stint at full-forward for Cork, and his contribution extended far beyond his scoring return of just one point, as was readily acknowledged by Barry-Murphy.
"As I've said, we always review the panel at this time of year, but we don't get everything right, and maybe we were wrong to leave Michael out last year ,but he had a good campaign with Sarsfields in the county championship, so he deserves to get another chance. He's being doing very well so far and he was excellent today I thought."
Cussen's clubmate Daniel Kearney, who was always in thick of the action at midfield in the first half, was also singled out for special praise by Barry-Murphy.
"Daniel was playing very well until he got a bad knock which left him a bit dazed, and I thought young Rob O'Shea showed good form too when he came on at midfield for the second half."
Following the concession of two goals in quick succession before half time, UCC, to their credit, didn't throw in the towel on the resumption, and, aided by a Willie Griffin goal from a free, they were snapping at Cork's heels before points from Pa Cronin and Paudie O'Sullivan got the Rebels back on track.
Limerick's Griffin was the students' top scorer on the day, but their leading marksman from play was St Ita's Seamus Harnedy, who, in knocking over five points, did much to boost his prospects of earning a callup to the Cork panel for the league.
So too did Stephen White, who turned in a highly competent display at wing back for the winners. Others especially impressive for Cork were Shane O'Neill and Stephen McDonnell in the corner back berths, while, aside from O'Sullivan and Cussen, Patrick Horgan and Stephen Moylan achieved most in attack.
Numbered among UCC's leading lights was Kilworth's Kieran Lane, who rarely put a foot astray at centre-back, with Kilbrin's William Egan at wing-back, Castlemartyr's Brian Lawton at midfield, and, in the early stages, Midleton's Conor Lehane at full forward, also having their moments.
Scorers CORK: P Horgan 2-7, 1-6 frees, P O'Sullivan 1-4, P Cronin 0-4, S Moylan 0-3, R O'Shea and M Cussen 0-1 each
UCC: W Griffin 1-7, 1-5 frees, S Harnedy 0-5, C Lehane 0-2, D McCormack and B Hartnett 0-1 each
CORK: A Nash (Kanturk), S O'Neill (Bishopstown), C Spillane (Castlelyons), S McDonnell (Glen Rovers), T Kenny (Grenagh), C Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), S White (Ballygarvan), D Kearney (Sarsfields), P Cronin (Bishopstown), B Corry (Ballymartle), C McCarthy (Sarsfields), S Moylan (Douglas), P Horgan (Glen Rovers), M Cussen (Sarsfields), P O'Sullivan (Cloyne) Subs: R O'Shea (Carrigaline) for Kearney (injured), M O'Sullivan
(Tracton ) for Cussen UCC: D McCarthy (Ballymartle), S Maher (Tipperary), D Glynn (Kilkenny), B Cleary (Limerick), J Barry (Tipperary), K Lane (Kilworth), W Egan (Kilbrin), B Lawton (Castlemartyr), B Murray (Bishopstown), B Hartnett (Midleton), D McCormack (Tipperary), S Harnedy (St Ita's), W Griffin (Limerick), C Lehane (Midleton), A Breen (Limerick). Subs: C Ryan (Clare) for Maher, B Coughlan (Waterford) for Cleary, M Sugrue (Bandon) for McCormack, S Cashin (Kilkenny) for Breen, M Howard (Passage) for Murray REFEREE: J O'Brien (Tipperary)