Saturday 17 November 2018

Meyler looks ahead as Cork recover from 'sloppy' start

Cork manager John Meyler with his son and Republic of Ireland footballer David Meyler with Cork supporters from Bride Rovers GAA club, Co Cork following the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork manager John Meyler with his son and Republic of Ireland footballer David Meyler with Cork supporters from Bride Rovers GAA club, Co Cork following the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo: Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

All but three seconds of the first 35 minutes had elapsed when Cork struck for what turned out to be the decisive score in the 2018 Munster final.

Up until then the defending title holders had experienced a torrid afternoon. John Conlon had done a personal demolition job on the Cork full-back line, taking Damien Cahalane for four points before Colm Spillane was moved to full-back in an effort to counter the threat of the Clonlara marksman.

He dragged Conlon to the ground soon afterwards with a tackle which had it happened in football would have been a cast-iron black-card offence.

It just earned Spillane a booking and secured a free for Peter Duggan. Still, Conlon's fifth point from play put the Banner eight clear (2-11 to 0-9) in the 35th minute.

Sting But then Cork delivered a telling sting in the tale. Though he had wind advantage Anthony Nash had struggled throughout the half to deliver his trademark puck-outs to his outfield colleagues.

But at the 17th time of asking he hit the sweet spot when the sliotar got to team captain Seamus Harnedy, who made the crucial break before linking up with Luke Meade who finished it to the net.

The subsequent puck-out from Donal Tuohy ended up over the sideline and Mark Coleman converted to cut the gap to four points.

The game had turned in an instant and, as far as Cork boss John Meyler was concerned, this was when the final was won and lost.

"We were eight points down and got it back to four - that was critical.

"Our work-rate wasn't good enough in the first half. We were sloppy; we were a yard behind Clare.

"So all we needed at half-time was to get our composure back and in fairness Donal (O'Mahony) and Fraggy (Kieran Murphy) (the Cork selectors), they did that."

But Meyler wasn't basking in the fact that Cork had retained the Munster title for the first time since 2006. In a trait learned from his son David, the Republic of Ireland soccer international, he was already focusing on the next challenge.

"It's just another match now and it's over. We are in an All-Ireland semi-final and we need to rectify what went on last year. It wasn't acceptable what happened last year against Waterford and we will be emphasising that to the players.

"We have won a Munster Championship and we are unbeaten in eight Munster Championship games but now we go to Croke Park in four weeks' time and we need to step it up again and I have no doubt that they will because there is incredible character in those players."

Joint Clare boss Gerry O'Connor suggested that Cork's surge after half-time during which the Rebels outscored Clare by 0-7 to 0-1 had proved their undoing.

"They came out at the start of the second half and you have to give them great credit. They played really good hurling and I think that's where the game was won and lost.

"That 10 to 15-minute period; we missed a few frees, they got a few handy scores and that's just the nature of it.

"We just weren't able to get a foothold in the game after that.

"That's why they're champions and worthy champions. They game is played over 75 minutes, we just weren't able to get possession from our own puck-outs as regularly as we were in the first half and as a result of that there was a lot of ball being cut out by their half-back line and feeding their forward line," said O'Connor.

Of course, the Banner County remain in the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup - they will meet either Wexford - now managed by Clare's native son Davy Fitzgerald - or Westmeath in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

reality "We'll go back and we'll feel sorry for ourselves tonight for a while but we'll refocus and do our recovery tomorrow night like we've been doing for the last couple of weeks. It's a short turnaround but maybe that will suit us. The reality is we've got to go and prepare diligently for an All-Ireland quarter-final in two weeks' time."

Cork goalkeeper Nash insisted that the team had never focused on getting back to Croke Park during the championship.

"Never thought of it, honest to God. It's hard, but you can't with the new format.

"Look at all the teams that are gone out. Dublin were so competitive, Tipperary are Tipperary, Waterford - last year's All-Ireland finalists. So you couldn't think about it. One game at a time," he said.

But ten months is a long time in hurling. After the mauling they endured late on against Waterford in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final, who would have foreseen that they would be the first county to reach the same stage of the 2018 series?

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