Wednesday 22 May 2019

Cork have all you need to win All Ireland

Diarmuid Sheehan was hugely impressed with the Rebels on Sunday afternoon so much so that he's making a big claim - Liam's coming home

Cork players celebrate Munster final win this year
Cork players celebrate Munster final win this year

Cork retained their Munster Senior Hurling title last weekend and taking everything into consideration it really is no more than they deserve.

A season that has seen Cork go unbeaten in five, (the most number of games any side has ever had to play to win the title) the Rebels have again been a revelation this season which considering they were title holders going into the showpiece game seems a little odd.

Nobody outside the camp itself gave Cork a chance this year which ultimately made many so-called experts look a little on the foolish side. After the heroics in Thurles last weekend pundits and fans have been scrambling to see just what has made this Cork team an unexpected force in Irish hurling right now.

I am going to take a little bit of pleasure here in reminding those of you that read the preview last weekend that I predicted a Cork win by two points - whoopee for me, I am, however, going to ignore the fact that during the week just gone I did waver a little and honestly felt that Cork would likely lose - not a mistake I will make again. This Cork team are superb and they will win the All Ireland. Colours now firmly nailed to the mast.

Last Sunday Cork started poorly, they were cut apart at the back, dominated in the middle and struggled for long periods to get anything like clean ball to their forwards. John Conlon ran riot and made some serious hurlers like Damien Cahalane and Colm Spillane look lethargic.

Conlon was un-markable for about 30 minutes and in that time, he smacked over a host of brilliant scores, dragged both defenders all over the back third and linked superbly with his attacking colleagues. Almost the perfect full-forward display.

Roll on to near half-time and Spillane managed to get a grip on Clare's most influential player and things began to go Cork's way.

The scores before the break from Luke Meade (goal) and mark Coleman (point) and Cork were on a roll. Meade's intervention was clinical and vitally important to the cause, but overall, he has had better days. Coleman on the other hand was again sensational and at this stage is, without doubt one of the best half-backs in the land.

In the first half Cork struggled in the middle with Darragh Fitzgibbon and Bill Copper struggling to make an impact but that also changed in the second and again the central duo did well. Fitzgibbon again chipped in with a brace and deserves plenty credit for his overall shift on the day as well as throughout the championship.

Usually I try to find the positives at the rear to back up a win as the forwards always get the praise but last Sunday, in front of 45,000 odd hurling fans Cork's attackers stole the show.

Very little can be added at this stage about Patrick Horgan, but yet again he showed why he is not just one of the current greats, he is a legendary figure of the game in Cork.

Horgan is like Seán Óg, Teddy Mac, Joe Deane or Diarmuid O'Sullivan - he is a legend of the game and while many outside the county don't give this hugely talented forward the credit he deserves he is a living legend on Leeside.

Horgan always gets the plaudits and on most occasions he fully deserves it but on this day, at this time in Cork's evolution Cork needed a true leader and like all the great names that have gone before one emerged from the crowd and last Sunday that name was Seamus Harnedy.

The St Ita's man was magnificent on the day and dragged his side to their second Munster crown on the bounce with a personal display that took many in and outside the ground by surprise.

Harnedy is a hugely talented player with so many attributes in his locker that it is hard to pick out his best but after Sunday his ability to lead on the pitch, do the hard work that needs to be done and score when scores need to be taken really does mark him down as something special.

While the positives from the day do far outweigh the negatives John Meyler and his team did acknowledge that there are issues still to be addressed. The team still have a few players that need to return with Alan Cadogan a real possibility now for the semi with a four week break to that one.

The side did again have a few playing below the level that can be accepted by a team with genuine All Ireland credentials, but so far the side have been able to plough through.

It was great to see Lorcaín McLoughlin getting onto the pitch last weekend, but having to come off soon after was disappointing - however it shows that the hugely talented Kanturk man does have a future in this squad.

Cork's lack of pace in certain quarters is also a concern, but if great players don't have genuine pace then their other attributes need to come to the fore and to this point all players have managed to compensate just nicely.

So where to now? Well of to Croke Park to right the wrongs of last year and, while Waterford won't be the opposition this time round, Cork will feel that this is their chance to show just what fast, exciting, energetic and brilliant hurling can do.

Just can't wait.