Justin McCarthy says the true worth of this Cork team is still unknown given Tipperary “flopped” in last month’s Munster quarter-final.
The 1966 All-Ireland medal winner believes Sunday’s clash with Waterford will provide a far clearer picture as to the potential of Kieran Kingston’s side. Where Tipperary afforded Cork the “freedom of Thurles”, McCarthy knows Waterford will pack their defence in a bid to stifle the Rebel forwards.
Each of Cork’s starting six forwards were on the scoresheet during the 2-27 to 1-26 win over Tipperary, amassing 1-21 from play between them. And while McCarthy described the win as “a step in the right direction”, he says expectation should be tempered until Horgan, Harnedy and co have survived 70 minutes within the environs of a “congested” Waterford rearguard.
“You can’t judge a team on one game because realistically, Tipperary flopped. Tipperary were hammered by Galway in the league final. They came into the championship then and they thought they would put things together, but they weren’t fresh. A lot of good players played very averagely. They were missing a few players, as well,” stressed McCarthy.
“You’ll know a lot more about Cork on Sunday because it will be a different type of game.”
Having shaded last month’s free-flowing encounter, McCarthy reckons Cork will have to “win ugly” this weekend. “If you’re looking for another exhibition game, forget about it. Won’t happen. If Waterford played a similar game to Tipperary the last day, they’d be beaten well.Waterford will play a more congested game, pulling bodies back. I don’t like the congested game, I don’t think it is doing anything for hurling. Winning nice or winning ugly, it doesn’t matter nowadays so long as you get the result.
“Waterford will set up with eight backs and just four forwards. And because of that, the Cork forwards will have to be able to do things quicker, smarter and faster. They have to be patient too as you are not going to break down that type of defence straightaway. Cork have to be able to cope. Picking off points from distance could be a way of drawing Waterford out of their congested defence.
“Cork should not be caught off guard by how Waterford will line up. Cork wouldn’t want to be looking around at each other after 20 or 30 minutes and asking themselves, ‘why are we not getting through’. They’ll have to be ready to readjust from the off.”
Can they adapt?
“The younger Waterford players are more experienced than the younger Cork players. They are a bit hardier because they’ve been in Munster and league finals. Deep down, though, Cork are Cork. I know from my own time as Waterford manager, it took a long time to beat Cork in the Munster championship.
“Their win over Tipperary was badly needed from a Cork point of view and from a hurling point of view. The confidence you get from a game like that is something you can’t measure. If Cork work hard and have quick movement, because there’s no point standing still when you have a Waterford player on either side of you, then they have a great chance.”
The former Waterford and Limerick manager doesn’t expect the deferred reopening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh to impact negatively on Kingston’s charges. “It would have been an incentive for the team on Sunday to get the win and ensure their presence at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the first Munster hurling final at the new stadium. That’s not there now, but I don’t think it will lessen the team’s motivation. We won Munster finals in Killarney, Limerick and Thurles so the venue shouldn’t be an issue. A final is a final and that should be motivation enough. With regard to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they have to get the stadium right. There was nothing to be gained from opening it up and it not ready.”
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