Cork atone and shut up the doubters (me among them)

Cork’s man-of-the-match Eoin Cadogan races out to challenge Limerick’s Aaron Gillane in the Munster SHC Round 2 clash at the LIT Gaelic Grounds yesterday. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

I’m sure there are some people out there giving me a share of the credit for Cork’s win yesterday. I’ve no doubt that my comments in my column here on Saturday got Cork riled up big time. 

Dónal Óg Cusack certainly gave me bags of it in the TV studio, but I’m not working for Paddy Power and I’m not in this game to be tipping winners. 

I can only call it as I see it and what I saw from Cork prior to yesterday was a team that appeared not to be playing for management, nor doing it for themselves either.

I found that hard to take from a team that, after the All-Ireland disappointment of the last two years, should have been ravenous for atonement. 

All I saw last week was meek surrender, but they went over the top of the trenches yesterday, and rolled Limerick into the mud.

I wasn’t just giving it in the neck to John Meyler to be controversial. I know Meyler well from my time in Kerry with Kilmoyley because Meyler managed the team before me. 

I often called him on the Shannon ferry from Tarbert after a Kilmoyley defeat to go through some stuff, to know what I’d do with some fella after a poor performance.

Hurling runs through Meyler’s blood. He didn’t need me to tell him that something radical needed to change, starting with Cork’s attitude. 

I felt well within my rights to question management, and whether or not the players were playing for them, but I’m sure everyone associated with the squad looked long and hard at themselves this week, and asked themselves difficult questions.

Cork came up with the answers because they were on a different level to where they were seven days earlier. Cork were a team fighting for their lives. 

They played like a team with their backs pressed hard against the wall, but you have to give huge credit too to Meyler and his management for the bravery of the calls they made beforehand, especially in how well they reorganised their defence.

They were bang on here. Their defence was only caught out once, when Graeme Mulcahy punished them with his goal, but it didn’t happen again. 

Limerick made some inroads in the second half but there were four or five Cork fellas hot on a Limerick player’s heels anytime they went near the goal.

For Limerick, this was a serious wake-up call. We’ve seen it in Clare how hard it is to put successful seasons together. 

No matter how comfortable you are with your gameplan, and your system, the system won’t function unless you bring that raw desire and savagery. And Limerick didn’t.

They were like a fella having everything done for an exam, knowing all the theory and the practice, and then just going blank when the paper was put in front of him. 

You just can’t write, or play, when you don’t have time to think and Cork never gave Limerick a second in possession.

Limerick were ahead on the scoreboard at the break, but they were lucky to be in front. Cork were creating more chances throughout the first half and Limerick had no real threat up front after the break compared to Cork.

The hurt from last week, all the criticism they shipped during the week, clearly came out in Cork’s body language, and the ferocity in which they attacked the game. 

Players were rejuvenated; Mark Coleman, Seamus Harnedy, Daniel Kearney, Darragh Fitzgibbon. I haven’t seen Luke Meade put in a shift like that in well over a year.

Eoin Cadogan and Mark Ellis really steadied the ship down the centre. Cadogan was superb on Aaron Gillane. I heard on the way down that Ellis played an Intermediate football match for Millstreet last Sunday evening. 

He was apparently in his jeans for the Tipp match but you have to give credit to management for recognising what was needed yesterday, and that warriors like Ellis are what was required for the trenches.

Cork were just a different animal. Their puckout was a lot sharper than last week but so was the thinking and the movement. 

The first three puckouts of the second half were all broken through the Limerick half-back line, and into the Cork inside line. Alan Cadogan turned one of those balls into a score and the die was cast.

The way Limerick allowed those balls through was almost a reflection of their play. We can talk tactics and gameplans until they come out our ears, but what much could really have changed in seven days? 

Or else Tipperary have gone a mile ahead of everyone else. And if Liam Sheedy reads that, he’ll be thinking: ‘Sweet Jesus, no, don’t be saying that.’ 

It really comes down to that absolute want and fight and Cork had everything yesterday that they didn’t have against Tipperary.

Dónal Óg said in the TV studio that there were plenty of times in the past when he and his team-mates felt that the set-up wasn’t the best, but that they still came out and played their best anyway.

I’m not saying that the Cork set-up isn’t where it needs to be but I was curious as to why the team wasn’t kicking on when they were so close to an All-Ireland in 2018. 

Cork are no closer to an All-Ireland this morning, but they’re back on track.

There is still so much to play for now, including for Waterford. They were well beaten, but the result in the Gaelic Grounds has stirred the pot even more for everyone, including Waterford. 

They have two weeks now to reflect and get ready for Limerick, where a home win could give them a lifeline, while also putting Limerick in a real hole.

Despite the magnitude of the win, Tipperary still have some questions to answer with the way they allowed a 14-man Waterford side back into the game in the third quarter. 

I felt they were slack and casual in that period but they still showed how the ruthless and killer instinct is back with them. You saw that late on with Jason Forde’s late goal. 

He could have picked the ball and put it over the bar, but he just spun on to his right side and he sensed Seamus Callanan was on his own. 

Forde played a beautiful crisp ground ball into Callanan, who nailed his 29th championship goal.

Forde was brilliant but he isn’t the only one making big statements. The mojo is back with Callanan. Mikey Breen got six points from play, which is some haul. 

Hitting 2-30 after clocking 1-28 last week is some shooting within the space of seven days and Tipp have done a lot of heavy lifting now in terms of scoring difference and separating themselves from the threat of Munster being decided by head-to-heads.

Waterford will be disappointed with the scoreline and successive defeats so early in the championship but, just like Cork last few days, they have to ask themselves hard questions in the next two weeks if they are to find the answers, and a way out of this predicament. 

The questions are very simple — how much pride do we have in the jersey now? How much do we care for our heritage? 

Are we going to make Walsh Park mean something? Limerick wiped the floor with us last year, are we going to allow that to happen again?

Four points can still easily get a team through, but three points might yet be enough in Leinster after yesterday’s Dublin-Wexford draw. 

I didn’t see the game in Parnell Park but Dublin obviously played on the Parnell factor by digging out a result when it looked to have gone from them.

Dublin will be delighted, but Leinster could very well be decided now by score difference because there will no head-to-head from yesterday’s outcome. 

Kilkenny were impressive again against Carlow. With a three-week break now, they’ll be pumped up and revved up for Galway in Nowlan Park. A win there could secure them a place in a Leinster final. 

That would take the pressure off with their last game in Wexford Park but Brian Cody will never let up. Dublin might need to beat Galway in their game in Parnell to secure their passage through.

Who knows what’s going to happen? Nobody has a clue really. 

What transpired in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday showed all the emotion, brilliance and madness of hurling.

And that’s why we love this game so much.

GAA podcast: Dalo was wrong. Emotional Cork. Limerick's Plan B? Tipp back it up. Ref justice

Anthony Daly, Ger Cunningham and TJ Ryan review the weekend's hurling.

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