Cork manager Kieran Kingston has a clear message for his players, writes Jackie Cahill, ahead of next Sunday’s Munster senior hurling championship quarter-final against Tipperary: ‘Make us proud.’
But Kingston acknowledges the scale of the task facing the Rebels at Semple Stadium — and insisted that Tipp’s heavy league final defeat to Galway will count for nothing.
Kingston also expressed sympathy for suspended Tipperary player Jason Forde, and he believes that the rivalry between the counties has been diluted somewhat in recent times due to the Premier County’s dominance.
Since winning the 2005 Munster final against Tipp, Cork have beaten their neighbours just once in championship fare, in a provincial quarter-final in 2010.
In the four meetings since — 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016 — Cork have tasted defeat on each occasion, losing by an aggregate 28 points.
Kingston said: “Certainly from my perspective and my era, the Cork-Tipp rivalry would have been number one. For some Cork people, playing Tipperary in the Munster championship and beating them was nearly like winning an All-Ireland.
“That’s changed a bit because you have a back door now and it’s not do or die, as it used to be. And of late, Cork’s record against Tipperary is very, very poor.
“If you want to talk about a rivalry, it has to ebb and flow and if it’s not, it doesn’t become a rivalry.”
Kingston rates Daniel Kearney’s chances of featuring on Sunday at “50-50”, but will give the midfielder every chance to prove his fitness after he sustained an Achilles problem in a recent challenge with Limerick.
“Everybody else is available for selection,” Kingston added, before discussing the task at hand.
“They won two trophies last year by a cumulative winning margin of 10 goals, in two matches, in their two biggest games of the year,” Kingston said.
“I would take no notice whatsoever of the league final. Tipperary have come through a hugely successful championship in 2016 and over the last three years, teams coming out of Division 1B are fresher and, in turn, three in a row have won the League.
“If you look at our final group game in the league against Tipperary, they’ll use that as a motivating factor. But based on their successful championship team of last year, they had half of them missing and they had already qualified on top of the league. The game didn’t have a huge significance for them, outside of continuing their winning run.
“For us, depending on how other results went, we could have found ourselves coming second in the league, as we did, or in a relegation battle. It had more significance for us than Tipperary so I wouldn’t be reading too much into that.”
However, that Cork victory, and their record of three wins from five group outings, compared to five defeats last year, has heightened expectations on Leeside that the nine-point gulf between the sides in last year’s championship tussle can be closed.
When asked what he’s expecting from his players, Kingston replied: “From where we’re coming from and the stage of development we’re at as a group, the most important thing for me on Sunday is that we give a performance that each player, individually and collectively, can be proud of, and that Cork supporters can be proud of. And that we give of our all. That’s all I can ask from the team.
“I can’t over-focus on what the opposition will bring on Sunday, or any other day for that matter because these are things I and my management team can’t control.
“All we can worry about and focus on are the controllables and try to influence those within our own camp. I don’t get too carried away with what we can influence regarding the opposition.
“We can only try and influence what we can do ourselves.
“The critical thing is that we reflect the hard work that we have done over the last number of months, the focus we have placed on consistency of performance, individually and collectively, during games and from game to game, and trying to keep that mantra going into Sunday, and deliver a performance as best we possibly can.
“Where that leaves us then, we don’t know, but that’s all we can do.”
Tipp will line out without Forde, suspended for one game following his league semi-final altercation with Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald.
And Kingston reflected: “I haven’t been reading too much on it but I was at the game and I thought an awful lot was made about nothing, in my view.
“I think any player that misses a game, for whatever reason, that’s disappointing for the player, and for the camp because of all the work they’ve put in to get there.
“On the day, there wasn’t any great reaction.
“There was no melee, there was no reaction from the Tipp dugout and I think there’s been a huge amount made of very little.”
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