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ALAN CADOGAN

ALAN CADOGAN

ALAN CADOGAN

"THERE are always hurlers in Cork," Jimmy Barry-Murphy has just been reminded of a previous statement dating from last season. "Sometimes I say things and I don't be thinking too much about them!" he laughs in response.

But the Cork manager doesn't deny the veracity of his year-old remark. His team eventually lost last year's All-Ireland after an epic two-game saga with Clare but they have bounced back this summer and now return to the semi-final arena as Munster champions for the first time in eight years. There are always hurlers in Cork ...

BANDIED

"The lack of underage success has been bandied about," says JBM, speaking ahead of Sunday's Croke Park showdown with Tipperary. "We've got some very good hurlers out of the underage like Christopher Joyce, Alan Cadogan. All these lads played at underage level for Cork and, even though they hadn't been successful, they'd been part of underage teams with Cork.

"I firmly believe this - you needn't be winning minor All-Irelands or U21s to be a really good county. Clare, in my opinion right now, have one of the best U21 teams I've ever seen in my life. But again, I don't think for a second we wouldn't be able to compete with them at senior next year."

Barry-Murphy is now in year three of his second coming as Cork's commander-in-chief. When he returned, in the autumn of 2011, any such claims about the perennial availability of stickmen on Leeside would have been open to serious scrutiny.

Even the prodigal legend would have perused the depth of the panel inherited from Denis Walsh and wondered if Cork could keep pace with the elite in the midst of the transition that was inevitably coming.

"It looked like the resources and the back-up weren't as strong as you'd like," he admits, harking back. "You had the nucleus of a team who had given great service, who were probably coming to the end of the best of their days.

"So you would be afraid the gap would be too big to bridge, to keep us competitive.

"But when you think about it, it's our third semi-final now in-a-row and that's a great achievement for the players in itself.

"Unlucky to lose last year's (All-Ireland) final; lost the Munster final; then winning the Munster final this year ... I would hope that will be a great confidence-booster for us going forward, to the group mentality of the players," he adds.

Confidence wasn't so abundant last February and March, even as Cork went about the business of topping Division 1B to secure their Allianz League top-flight return.

"Our form was terrible during the league really - no disrespect to the teams we were playing," Barry-Murphy says.

"It was very difficult to put our finger on it, and I wasn't accepting this 'hangover' factor from the All-Ireland final.

"Having lost it, I thought that we would be even hungrier to go on and lash teams in Division 1B and sail out of it. But that wasn't the case: we were up in Ballycastle and two points down against Antrim, and that type of situation was going from game to game ... (coach) Kieran Kingston was concerned, wondering what he was doing wrong, and we said nothing."

MOTIVATE

"From the players' point of view, they were finding it hard to motivate themselves after the All-Ireland final and that seems to be the factor."

A turning point, of sorts, came in the league quarter-final - even if that ultimately resulted in defeat. For his part, recalling those first ten minutes when Tipperary "blew us away", the Cork boss is slow to advocate the shock value of falling ten points down as a recipe for success.

Now it's Tipp again on Sunday. With a diplomatic but emphatic reply, he declines to name-check the Premier's key men, saying: "Brilliant hurlers in their own right, but I'm not going to go into any detail."

Besides, he has enough hurlers in Cork to keep him occupied.


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