Saturday 19 October 2019

'A blind man can see we work well' - Cork duo's telepathic ability the key to Rebel potency

Mark Collins of Cork scores the third goal past Laois defender Trevor Collins during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 match between Cork and Laois at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Mark Collins of Cork scores the third goal past Laois defender Trevor Collins during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 match between Cork and Laois at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

FEW events in the GAA are the subject of as many conflicting rumours as the behind-closed-doors inter-county challenge match.

You’ve heard them all, but here are a few standards...

i) There was a row.

ii) The referee told the manager to take (mercurial forward) off or he’d send him off.

iii) (Star defender) got cleaned out by (opposition forward).

So it was when word seeped through after Dublin and Cork met each other back in early May.

What we actually know about that game is as follows:

i) It took place in Carlow.

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ii) Cork won.

After that, the margin of victory and the extent of the havoc wreaked by Brian Hurley on Rory O’Carroll are the two elements of the story that vary wildly, depending on the teller.

However, given Cork’s vertical trajectory since the end of the league and Hurley’s scoring form, it’s not hard to imagine a strong grain of truth running through both narratives.

“It just shows you what Cork have missed,” said Mark Collins about Hurley – his strike partner in the Rebels inside line and clubmate with Castlehaven, who returned for their Munster opener against Limerick from a hamstring injury having previously had two major operations – after his contribution of 2-4 against Laois last weekend.

“You can’t buy forwards like that. He just lives for goals and at this level if you can get goals you’ve a great chance. We’re absolutely delighted to have him back.”

As Alan Brogan noted yesterday in his column for the Herald, it wasn’t any of Hurley’s scores that stood out as the highlight of his performance.

Rather it was the calm way he sold two dummy solos to Laois defenders just a couple of metres out from goal and slipped a perfect past to Collins for his goal.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 15 or 16,” Collins points out.

“It’s a great connection with him, I lived with him for a couple of years as well so I get on super with him.

“I know what he’s been through, so I’m absolutely delighted he’s got to a stage like this and is doing so well.”

Along with the rangy Ruairí Deane at centre-forward, the pair have been the most exciting components of a Cork attack that has scored 10 goals in three Championship matches and averaged 26 points per game so far.

Naturally, then, the appreciation is mutual.

“I think a blind man can see we work well, we know each other’s runs,” says Hurley.

“It’s good to play with him and he’s a very intelligent player – he will always try to find you if it’s on.”

There is an element of the unknown about Cork coming to Croke Park. Of the 26-man squad named for Saturday evening, only Paul Kerrigan has been on a Cork team that has beaten Dublin in Championship football.

Of the 20 players used by Brian Cuthbert in Croke Park when these teams met last in a league match in March 2016, only seven will be involved in any capacity in Cork’s maiden appearance in the Super 8s. If the draw hasn’t been kind to Cork, you couldn’t tell it from their outward displays of enthusiasm last week in Thurles.

“What more could you want?,” beamed Collins.

“Two games in Croke Park, the Dubs, the best team in the country. It’s something to really look forward to and we can’t wait for it. Where else would you rather be than having a crack off the best team in the country?”

Already they’ve had a strong crack off one of the other All-Ireland contenders, even if an alarmingly slow start against Kerry cost them dearly in the Munster final.

“This was the goal after a disappointing Munster final,” Hurley insisted.

“We felt we left it there and, look, we have time to justify ourselves and the work we have put in all year. You know yourselves the volume of training that goes in, and people haven’t seen the full of us yet.

“Hopefully over the next three games, that will come out, starting this week.”

Given the scale of the beatings they routinely hand out, a lack of recent familiarity with Dublin may actually be beneficial for Cork.

Even the challenge match victory is likely to be a source of optimism this week.

“We’ll be going for them, of course we will,” Hurley confirmed.

“They’re a great team, great players. You have to go for them and I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m looking forward to it, and I’m sure a lot of the fellas will too.

“So we focus on ourselves, bring our own game, and we’ll see what happens.”

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