Monday 25 September 2017

Nash salutes Rebels sea-change after banishing Thurles hoodoo

Anthony Nash leaves the field in Semple Stadium after Cork’s victory over Tipperary. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Anthony Nash leaves the field in Semple Stadium after Cork’s victory over Tipperary. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

As Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash left Thurles on Sunday evening, he could reflect on a job well done.

Far too often from a Cork perspective in recent years, they'd experienced dark days at Semple Stadium.

Since beating Clare in the 2014 Munster semi-final, the Rebels lost to Waterford in a 2015 League final and Munster semi-final, before falling to Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final later in the year.

In 2016, they lost by 12 and nine points respectively in League and championship against Tipp, before bowing out of the championship against Wexford at the same venue.

The one positive result from Thurles was a 2015 qualifier victory over Clare but Sunday was different.

This was Tipp in Thurles, the first time Cork had beaten their old rivals there in a championship match since 2006.

"It's great to be going smiling onto a bus rather than having your head down again," said Nash, whose devastating puck-outs were a key weapon in Cork's impressive arsenal.

Form

"Training had gone very well. Look, it was going to be extremely hard, you were playing against the All-Ireland champions, who have had a League campaign where they showed they carried over their form from last year.

"But we trained very well, very hard, looked for a performance and got it.

"So, delighted. We are going to enjoy it and then park it because we have Waterford in a few weeks, who have shown they are one of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately that's a cliché but that's the way it is, that's the way it has to be.

"We've to put in a performance in a few weeks and Waterford are an awesome side. It's going to be difficult, but we just go back to training and go again."

In last year's Munster quarter-final, Nash didn't concede a goal against Tipperary but they lost by nine points, and malfunctioned defensively.

William Egan was all at sea in a sweeper system that was alien to Cork's traditional style of play.

This time, Cork produced all of the best facets of their game, using movement, pace, running power and no little skill to end Tipp's reign as Munster champions.

When asked about the seachange in 12 months, 32-year-old Nash admitted that it was difficult to pinpoint.

He said: "I don't know, I'd love to know. We felt last year in training we were going well. There was no difference going into the game, just the game went against us.

"You can't really put your finger on it, we'd love to."

With five full championship debutants in their starting line-up, Cork played without fear.

Michael Cahalane came off the bench to swell that number to six, and scored the match-clinching goal in the closing minutes.

Nash was particularly pleased for Cahalane, a player who was told that he'd never play again after being diagnosed with a heart condition in 2014. He said: "Michael was written out of the GAA for the last few years and came back today and got a great goal, but he's been showing that in training that he's well capable.

"He's shown in the League that he's well capable of it. He's a great fella and the most important thing is he's a great addition to the squad and shows great effort in training. You can't ask for much more.

"Hopefully he'll stay healthy and keep training."

Suddenly, the summer stretches out invitingly in front of Cork. Beat Waterford on June 18 and they'll contest a Munster final, while also booking a slot in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Not that Nash and Cork will pay much heed to rising levels of expectation on the back of just one game, hugely significant as it was.

He insisted: "Not within the camp, honest to God. We just try to keep it very much in-house as much as we can."

Irish Independent

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