Rebels' march to decider a bonus for Barry-Murphy
Cork have surpassed Jimmy Barry-Murphy's expectations by reaching a league final so soon into his second coming as manager.
Barry-Murphy (pictured below) admitted he has been pleasantly surprised by the progress after initially pencilling in avoidance of relegation from such a tight Division 1 as a priority.
"When we started off in the league I didn't know how the older players were going to perform and I certainly didn't know whether the younger players coming in would be up to this level so soon. So it's been a bit of a roller-coaster from that point of view," he admitted.
"Our first step was to avoid relegation, because no new management team wants to get relegated in their first year. You saw with Dublin that it's a distinct possibility because of the nature of the league and the way it was structured.
"It would be beyond our expectations to be in the final and we're absolutely thrilled, but I suppose when we got to the latter stages, we saw the opportunity and we've really gone for it."
The only disappointment is the loss of captain Donal Og Cusack who, Barry-Murphy revealed, will be out of action for up to nine months with an Achilles injury, which is longer than anyone had anticipated.
"It's quite a long time, but nine months means he'll be back in February for next year's league," said the Cork boss. "He's very much focused on getting back playing again. We're delighted to hear that. We want him back playing with us again.
"When Shane O'Neill didn't want to be captain again this year and when we sat down to think about the people that were available to take the armband, there were a lot of good guys there, but no one really jumped out that we would like to make captain, that would give us the leadership, given where we were coming from.
"Donal Og is a big figure in the dressing-room, the players all look up to him, so I'm bitterly disappointed for him."
Barry-Murphy has made a commitment that as long as he is manager, Cork will be a competitive force.
"I made the point to the players before we played Tipperary in the semi-final that while I'm involved in our back-room team, we want Cork to be involved in the latter stages of every competition we take part in.
"I think we've made more progress than I expected at this stage and I'd like to think we've closed the gap a bit quicker than I would have thought. But Sunday, obviously, will tell us a bit more. We're going up there on Sunday to give it a right go and to find out exactly where we stand with Kil-kenny, because they are the bench-mark."