Thursday 20 June 2019

Wounded Déise still demand respect from the on-song Rebels

Munster SHC Round 3: Cork v Waterford, Saturday June 8, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7pm

Cork manager John Meyler
Cork manager John Meyler

Diarmuid Sheehan

Cork will head into action next weekend with more than a new-found sense of optimism in their stride.

The Rebels bounced back from their opening day defeat to Tipperary by seeing off Limerick in Round 2 - now the Rebels have their sights set on a clash with Waterford this Saturday night with the promise of a box seat for a top three finish for the final day's action a weekend later if they can secure a victory over the Déise.

These days Cork seem to be a side that thrive when their backs are to the wall and even though they secured two points against Limerick they are still in a position that could see them out of the top three just as easily as them competing in this season's provincial final.

Cork manager John Meyler is becoming accustomed to these do or die fixtures and, while this weekend on the face of it may not seem to be an all or nothing clash, if Cork lose the odds on them exiting the All Ireland race at the provincial stage fall dramatically.

Meyler needed to look back before he could look forward in a press conference the other day to try an explain just where his side are now.

"The two games were up and down and the performance against Tipperary. We spoke about that (after the game) and then we went to Limerick and everything was good. The decision making was good.

"The work rate was good. Our scores were very good. Overall it was a very good performance but we need to build on that for Waterford next weekend."

Having to face the All Ireland Champions just seven days after being dismantled by Tipp turned out to be a good thing for Meyler and his squad.

"It [the Limerick game] washed things out. It was a hot wash straight away and we got everything out of our system. In the old days, you could have four or five weeks to think about a game like that, so it's much better to have this format.

"You can get a game out of your system quickly, to forget about the Tipperary match and focus on the Limerick match. That's one of the benefits of the current system."

Having had a three-week interval between the Limerick and Waterford games is obviously going to be difficult for a side that seem to thrive on going weekend after weekend but Meyler is taking all that in his stride.

"It was a huge high, the game against Limerick, so we gave them a few days' break to recharge the batteries and refocus - to look at the positives and to focus on them for the next game."

"We've had a break now, so for our next game Waterford will have the advantage of the game last weekend. We'll need to look at that as well. We've seen Waterford on tape, such as the league final against Limerick in Croke Park, and they were competitive in the league up to that game, which Limerick won easily enough."

Meyler was playing down the importance of the personnel changes for the Limerick game and pointed out that the success was more down to having a squad than any one or two individuals.

"If you make changes and you win you're 100% right, but that's the whole idea behind having a panel, to be able to introduce Alan Cadogan after ten minutes when Conor Lehane got injured - that was hugely important, Maccie (Stephen McDonnell) came in for Seán O'Donoghue, Christopher Joyce, Shane Kingston and all Declan Dalton came on, Declan got two points which were very valuable.

"The changes worked in that they all played well and the subs who came in had an impact on the game. So it all worked out, really."

Meyler was quick to add that the injury sustained by Lehane might not be as bad as people thought at the time with Colm Spillane, Niall O'Leary, Robert Downey and Darragh Fitzgibbon all in the manager's thoughts.

"Conor [Lehane] is back running, and hopefully we'll have him for Saturday - that's about it. Colm's doing some light running and the longer we're in it the more chance there is of him getting back to play a game. But he won't be back for Sunday.

"Niall [O'Leary] has come in and has done well, but he's only a young fella learning the ropes, he's 21 and has a long way to go. The same with Robert Downey, they just need to keep the heads down and to keep working hard.

"Darragh had a really tough year - going to the All-Ireland senior semi-final last year, the All-Ireland Under 21 final, the club campaign with Charleville, UCC with the Fitzgibbon - he played no league match for us this year but he's only finding his feet now for us. Mark Coleman the same."

The last game against Limerick showed that Meyler had found a panel and that addition paid dividends on the day.

"We looked at that purposely, and we brought in the likes of Aidan Walsh. It's a 20, 21-man game so it's all about the impact. If you look at Declan Dalton, he came in and got two critical points at a vital stage for us with Alan Cadogan coming on to give us huge impetus as well.

"No matter who's playing, the four teams playing this weekend will all want to win. We're all aware of how competitive the Munster championship is, and there's no question on any day of a team not turning up. You never see that."

Cork will take on the Deise full of the joys of life this Saturday night however they must beware of the wounded animal - remember last year Waterford almost spoiled the party on the last round robin day for a Cork side that were expected to cruise home.

Cork should win by about five, but they will need to show early, otherwise Waterford may well smell blood in the water and bag their first win of the championship.