Cork boss Pat Ryan says ‘clarity’ provided by defeat will focus minds ahead of championship
The Sarsfields club man was perplexed by the dismissal of full-back Eoin Downey
No question in the bowels of Nowlan Park that Pat Ryan was disappointed with the result of the Allianz National Hurling league semi-final against Kilkenny last weekend but all is far from lost as Cork look to the future and bigger challenges ahead.
After a season so far that had produced no negative results, Cork came into the last four clash in good form, but on the day there was no arguing that the home side deserved their win, leaving the Sars man to rue what might have been
Ryan was searching for answers after seeing his side go down by two goals and was understandably disappointed at how his side started the clash with one of the main contenders for the 2023 All Ireland crown.
“I’m disappointed in the level of our performance but, in fairness, we came back,” said Ryan to the media scrum.
“We started very poorly in the first half, then got back into the game and we were down a goal at half-time. Unfortunately, then we gave away a sloppy enough penalty and the sending-off made it difficult but I’m very proud of our fellas, the way they fought in the second half. We brought it back to three or four points and had opportunities to bring it back even closer.
“We probably should have used the ball a small bit – Kilkenny used the ball well there with the spare man in the second half and got two or three handy scores that we didn’t get.
“In the first half, obviously, Kilkenny were playing with the wind and got on the ball and got a few scores. We gave away a few sloppy scores early and got them into the game.
"We had a couple of opportunities where we went through ourselves – Tommy O’Connell could have taken a score, but gave the ball to Conor Cahalane, small things like that.”
Ryan was happy that his side made some chances, but the opportunities didn’t come too much.
“We had a couple of other [goal chances] opportunities – Shane [Kingston] had one there in the second half and Paudie [Power] was fouled once or twice when he was half-turning the man.
“Kilkenny defended well, we defended well as well – I think a lot of their goal opportunities came when the spare man was there.”
The sending off of Eoin Downey was obviously a big blow for Cork heading into championship – a decision that will be contested by Ryan and the Cork County Board.
“I’m not going to hide away from it – we’d like to have won today and got to the league final, but it gives us clarity now and we can build for five weeks. Obviously, the league was about finding players and fellas getting used to our systems and the way we want to play and the way we deal with things.
“It’s been very good for us, it’s been fantastic for us, really, but we’ve five weeks now until championship and this gives us great clarity with our training and stuff like that.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t see Eoin doing too much. There were 25 fellas involved. I think a fella getting sent off for something like that and he’s going to miss a championship match for a league game isn’t right.
“Even David Fitzgerald last week for Clare getting sent off and missing a championship match, I think it’s totally unfair. They are separate competitions and I think they should be treated that way. We just have to have a look at it.”
Cork will now turn their attention to the Munster Championship where they will square up to Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the end of April. Before that, Ryan let us know that his side will be heading to Enfield for a pre-competition training camp.
Ryan will likely take a lot away from this season’s league and will look to bring through even more young U20s from the last few years through to compete for places.
Unfortunately, Ryan has still work to do to bring Cork back to the force they once were but if the 2023 league is anything to go by, Cork are definitely in the mix heading into Championship 2023.