Tracton man outlines his ‘massive belief in this group of players’
After weeks of coming under the most sustained of pressure and criticism Cork’s senior hurling manager, Kieran Kingston, looked much more at home in front of the media on Sunday after his charges powered past Tipperary.
The Tracton man has now led his side through yet another mine-laden provincial championship and on to the now familiar route that is the All Ireland qualifiers.
Kingston’s Cork have now become the first side to make it through the Munster Round Robin series after losing their opening two fixtures however the manager still doesn’t believe that his side have earned the right to be called consistent after winning the last two games on the bounce.
“Two games doesn't make us a consistent team and certainly one didn't last Sunday,” said the man that guided Cork to last season’s All Ireland Final.
“We know how important last Sunday [against Waterford] was because obviously backs to the wall, lose and you're out and today we approached it in exactly the same way. It was a knockout game as far as we were concerned.”
Coming into the game with Tipperary the head tactician was clear that history told him and his players everything they needed to know about the task at hand.
“It's Cork and Tipperary, we all grew up on tales of Cork playing Tipp in Munster hurling, especially up in Thurles. You could see that today, if today happened to be a dead rubber game, the approach of both teams would have been the same because it's still Cork and Tipp.”
Cork may well have powered to this victory, but five minutes in no one, including Kingston thought that was going to be the case – that said he was confident his charges would stick to the playbook.
“I thought the lads during that period never panicked, stuck to the game plan, believed in what we were doing,” he noted.
“We went six points down, that was very disappointing. Our start was very poor. We could have been further down, but I thought the character the lads showed from there on in to go six down and I think 15 up in the second half. Massive turnaround, final score winning by 12 points. So that's a huge turnaround.
"They stayed with the process, stayed with the plan, believed in what we were doing, believed in themselves and turned it around coming into half-time, which I was really proud of them for that.”
Kingston has been under the gun from all quarters in recent times for team selections, tactics and his players commitment to the cause, however, despite the negative publicity he never lost faith in what he and his side are trying to achieve.
“I've massive belief in this group of players, massive belief, and if we had lost the last two games, I would still have fierce belief in this group of players.
“I wouldn't have come back into them a couple of years ago when they asked me to if I didn't have belief in them and my belief in them has only grown.”
The manager may well have been thrilled that his plan now has some sort of vindication, but he wasn’t heaping all the praise on those inside the camp, the fans were also to the forefront of his thoughts.
“I said below in Walsh Park last week that some players had felt there was 10,000 Cork fans there because coming down the stretch when we needed Cork support, they were absolutely awesome.
“Cork people love their hurling and I suppose when you get to an All-Ireland final and league final, expectation goes up. Then you don’t deliver, and criticism goes up accordingly, but that’s the game we’re in and we have to deal with that as a management team and as players and we can deal with that.
"We are privileged to be in the position we are as players and management and not everyone can do, or would do, or would take the risk of doing what we do – and that is what makes inter-county players different.
“Cork supporters are awesome, but of course, there was negativity out there. We would think some of it unjustified, but then again, that’s our view. You know what they say about opinions. You have to look as well at who’s giving the opinion.”
Kingston isn’t known for singling out players for praise but when asked directly about the display given by Conor Lehane the man charged with bringing back the good times was quick to comment.
“He was fantastic. Everyone knows what Conor can do. Conor had a super club championship and has deservedly come back into the fold and is proving that we were right to ask him back and he was right to come back.
“Conor matched his hurling with his work-rate – I don’t want to single out any players as this was a huge team performance today, but Conor was exceptional. I am delighted for him, but we will put it up to him to do it again the next day.”