Friday 24 March 2017

Dublin aim for first championship win against Cork in 89 years

Cian O'Callaghan, Dublin. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Round 3, Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, Dublin
Cian O'Callaghan, Dublin. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Round 3, Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, Dublin

It may only be the start of July but for the Cork and Dublin hurlers, and their future in the championship, it’s do or die time.

On Saturday the two sides will face off in a winner- takes -all qualifier game at Páirc Uí Rinn in Cork.

Of course, home advantage is a huge positive for Cork. They are playing what is arguably the most important game of their season in their own backyard. The Rebels know the ground like the back of their hands and will have the majority of the crowd on their side. Dublin, on the other hand, will have limited experience of Cork’s temporary home and have a long trip to make from the capital.

However, Dublin aren’t without local knowledge. Their manager Ger Cunningham is a Cork man who has been involved in many facets of the game in his native county. He took over from Anthony Daly in late 2014 and has since faced the Rebels three times, losing on two occasions and winning once.

Eamonn Dillon, Dublin, in action against Gavin O'Mahony, left, and Wayne McNamara, Limerick.
Eamonn Dillon, Dublin, in action against Gavin O'Mahony, left, and Wayne McNamara, Limerick.

Dublin’s record against Cork is not great. In fact, they are hoping to get their first championship win over the Rebels since the 1927 All-Ireland final when they won 4-8 to 1-3. The counties have met eight times in the championship between then and now with Cork winning every battle.

But times have changed for the Dublin hurlers and they are no longer just making up the numbers. Games against hurling strongholds are no longer a forgone conclusion. They are now in the top tier.

Ger Cunningham
Ger Cunningham

Although the most recent championship meeting between the two teams did yield a Cork win, Dublin were, in many ways, caught on the hop. It was three years ago and they had just made history by winning the Leinster title for the first time since 1961.

In March 2016, they met in the League and it was a very easy outing for Dublin who won 4-21 to 2-17. It was a day that Eamonn Dillon really stood out, scoring 2-3. Since then he’s been a vital cog in the Dublin wheel, easing the worry somewhat about the absence of Danny Sutcliffe who opted to leave the panel at the end of last year.

So far in this year’s Leinster championship Dublin have played Wexford and Kilkenny, beating the former 2-19 to 0-12 and losing to the latter 1-25 to 0-16. In the first half against the defending All-Ireland champions they performed well, only trailing by one point when they went in at the break. But the second half told a different story and they were out-hurled right around the pitch.

Cork have had one less game and one less win. They lost the Munster quarter-final to Tipperary 0-22 to 0-13 but, unlike Dublin, who had some bright spells, they failed to perform at any stage and at half-time they were nine points down. It was a very comprehensive beating for Cork but there were no goals conceded, unlike in the league when they shipped four against Dublin, and two against both Kilkenny and Tipperary.

Lorcan McLoughlin, Cork, in action against Colm Cronin, Dublin. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Round 3, Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, Dublin.
Lorcan McLoughlin, Cork, in action against Colm Cronin, Dublin. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Round 3, Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, Dublin.

It’s expected that both teams will employ a sweeper despite the fact that it hasn’t worked out too well for Cork in the recent past. It’s a difficult strategy to master and unless executed will well it can be disastrous. A good sweeper is someone who has pace, can read the play and has the awareness not to sit in front of the full-back line. Instead, he follows the ball to create a two-on-one as quickly as possible and is also on hand when a turn over is forced.

The team that emerges victorious on Saturday will still have a long road ahead. They will join the winners of Clare-Laois, Westmeath- Limerick and Wexford-Offaly in round two of the qualifier draw.

On top of that they will have to contend with the fact that history is stacked against them. The only teams to come through the qualifiers and win the All-Ireland were Clare in 2013, Tipperary in 2010 and Cork in 2004. .

Although beating the odds is always a tough challenge, it could be a lot worse because for whoever loses it’s the end of the road. With home advantage and some lessons learned Cork should march on.

Don’t miss the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier when Cork face Dublin this Saturday live only on Sky Sports 5 at 6:30pm

Experience that gets you closer. Find out more skysports.com/gaa

 

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