Friday 15 December 2017

Conor Lehane out to make hay as sun shines on Cork hurling

Conor Lehane knows Waterford will be out to avenge their Munster SHC semi-final defeat to Cork on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Conor Lehane knows Waterford will be out to avenge their Munster SHC semi-final defeat to Cork on Sunday. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Conor Lehane admits there have been times in the past when he's been left scratching his head wondering where himself and the rest of the Cork hurling panel were going wrong.

Last year was particularly frustrating and their All-Ireland hopes were ended by a first championship defeat to Wexford in 60 years. It was a result that prompted some deep introspection.

"Not really," he replied, when asked if he was surprised at how downbeat the mood in the county was before this season.

"Because we felt it ourselves. We knew more than anyone ourselves. It was very tough to take. You'd be kind of questioning things a small bit.

"And once it starts going again you get back into that positive frame of mind and just apply yourself better and then obviously we have applied ourselves better this year than what we had done before.

Trick

"That's kind of the result of it now but it still doesn't... you know, we have only done it once... it's not like we've been doing it for years or anything like that. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves."

Lehane insists Cork know the size of the task that awaits them on Sunday. Having already seen off Waterford in the Munster Championship, they'll have to repeat the trick in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final.

Just as they were after winning the 2014 Munster title, they have been idle for five weeks. They would lose that year's semi-final to Tipperary by ten points and Lehane admits it's a challenge to maintain their high levels after an extended break from competitive action.

"There was a similar gap back then as well," he recalls. "There's probably been more club games this year as well. We didn't have one ourselves but I know there's been a lot of club games and competitive games are good.

"A five-week gap is a long time without a competitive game. It's up to the lads then at training to drive it on and not leave it too slack. Maybe that happened to us a bit in 2014. Because there were no club games at all then, it was purely training each week. That probably took its toll after a while."

He is within touching distance of another All-Ireland final now. Back in 2013, the Rebels let a precious Celtic Cross slip through their fingers as they went down to Clare after a replay.

And Lehane admits thoughts of that game still haunt him. "If anyone ever brings it up or if there's some reference to it on TV, showing it back, you're kind of like...you might get up and walk out of the room for a few minutes or distract yourself. Look it, it was what it was. That was it," he says.

"You can't but think that, how close it was. Obviously it was unfortunate, we had another chance as well and we didn't take it.

"It's not as if it was completely taken from us. It was our own chance the next day to take as well."

But he insists he's not looking past the challenge Derek McGrath's Déise will bring as that policy has served them well so far this season.

"It's probably said a lot but we took it as a game at a time. You can't be looking at the championship as a whole and trying to get to the final, you just have to literally take what's ahead of you, apply yourself the best way you can leading up to that game and then when that's over, it's onto the next thing. That's how we look at it."

It was a dark winter on Leeside. But success at senior, minor and U-17 level has turned that on its head. And Lehane is keen to keep the positive attitude around the place for as long as possible.

"Even just around the place, there's a much better buzz around. It's definitely better to have a small bit of success behind you but we're not going to get any way ahead of ourselves.

"Even for the semi-final, it's a game and that's that."

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