Cork hurlers remain box-office material but 2016 All-Ireland title highly unlikely

Cork hurlers remain box-office material but 2016 All-Ireland title highly unlikely
Dejected Cork supporters as Galway storm to victory last July.

By Peter McNamara

The Cork senior hurlers are box-office. Always have been. Always will be.

Despite a shortage of silverware to accompany the razzmatazz surrounding this particular red jersey the public flock to venues the length and breadth of the country to see the Rebels.

On Leeside there is no other representative team at any grade in any code that comes close to the senior hurlers in terms of public affection.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Kingston celebrate Cork's victory over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final of 2013.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Kingston celebrate Cork's victory over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final of 2013.

Historically, of course, that is understandable.

Decade after decade there have been players that have worn the blood and bandage and etched their names into the sporting folklore of the city and county by virtue of their extensive skill-sets.

With said public affection though has always come deep-rooted expectation.

Folk on Leeside, year in, year out, have believed Cork will be one of the most likely victors of the All-Ireland series no matter how far off the evidence may be to the contrary.

That was, until, last July 26. The penny dropped on that occasion, I reckon.

That is, of course, the date in which Galway tore a hapless Cork to pieces in Semple Stadium.

The Tribesmen defeated the Rebels 2-28 to 0-22 and it could have been worse for Cork but for Galway’s sloppy approach to the final quarter.

As dark days go for the code in the county that was one of the darkest.

How the team folded so alarmingly left supporters and commentators alike stunned.

Yet, that particular encounter and the subsequent fallout, unprecedented as it was, might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Everybody involved in, or with an interest in the sport in Cork needed that abrupt wake-up call.

It was almost as if a lot of people were shocked into the realisation of how far off the pace Cork actually were in the current climate.

Due to the emphatic nature of that 12-point reverse folk in the People’s Republic have, thankfully, re-evaluated their expectation levels as we count down the days until February 14 and the beginning of the Allianz NHL Division 1A.

And in a twisted symmetry Galway represent the opposition as Kieran Kingston leads Cork for the first time in a league encounter in Pearse Stadium.

What will be hugely beneficial to Kingston and his management team is that hope will seriously supersede expectation in 2016.

Nobody with an actual clue of what is required for a team to be ultimately successful next September will view Cork as All-Ireland contenders.

That statement is not targeted towards being a form of reverse psychology. And it’s certainly not written for the sake of being controversial either as I think it’s cringeworthy when journalists do things like that.

No, this is reality.

Even though every side is said to be starting off with a new canvas some teams are more of a longer-term project.

And Kingston’s with Cork definitely falls into that bracket.

Still, the return of Conor O’Sullivan could be a major positive to begin with. O’Sullivan was exceptional as Cork reached the All-Ireland final in 2013.

If the Sarsfields’ clubman regains the same level of form that marked him out as an outstanding defender in that campaign it’ll be a nice bonus for Kingston and co.

Kieran Kingston is tasked with rebuilding Cork.
Kieran Kingston is tasked with rebuilding Cork.

Realistically, though, progress should be calculated this year with a level-head at all times.

If Cork look back on 2016 having reached the knockout stages of the league, competed like lions in the Munster championship and secured a place in the quarter-final of the All-Ireland series, or, possibly, the semi-finals, it will have been a solid start to Kingston’s tenure.

To some, that might seem somewhat conservative even allowing for those revised expectations.

Yet placing any sort of pressure on Kingston and the team this term would be counter-productive.

Have no doubt that at some point in the campaign those in the group will roll out the ‘The only pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves’ line.

To a degree, that could be true.

Yet, the age-profile of the players named in Cork’s league squad is that, generally, of the social media generation and so they will be all too aware of how their fixtures and performances have been viewed by an extensive audience at a few clicks of a button.

Whether or not that greater scrutiny is right or wrong is an argument for another day.

However, and this is something Kingston is extremely aware of himself, it is an extra element teams have to deal with these days.

Additionally, the records of teams lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup after landing a Munster title success are sobering.

Cork, in 2005, are still the last team to add the All-Ireland crown to southern provincial silverware so even if Kingston’s crop manage to claim the Munster title a potential September triumph is still unlikely.

More in this Section

FAI appoint Niall Quinn as interim Deputy CEOFAI appoint Niall Quinn as interim Deputy CEO

Dalo's Hurling Show: A fair league format but is the cut-throat element gone? Dalo's Hurling Show: A fair league format but is the cut-throat element gone?

Kyrgios apologises for his behaviour after beating SimonKyrgios apologises for his behaviour after beating Simon

Russell sent home from Scotland training camp for ‘breach of discipline’ ahead of Ireland clashRussell sent home from Scotland training camp for ‘breach of discipline’ ahead of Ireland clash


Lifestyle

After years of saying no, Patrick Stewart tells Georgia Humphreys why he finally agreed to reprise his role as Jean-Luc PicardPatrick Stewart on boldly returning for Star Trek Picard

Cork teenager Jessie Griffin is launching a new comic-book series about her own life. She tells Donal O’Keeffe about her work as a comic artist, living with Asperger’s, and her life-changing time with the Cork Life CentrePicture perfect way of sharing Jessie’s story

Sorting out Cork people for agesAsk Audrey: The only way to improve air quality in Douglas is to move it upwind from Passage West

The Lighthouse is being hailed as one of the best — and strangest — films of the year. Its director tells Esther McCarthy about casting Robert Pattinson, and why he used 100-year-old lensesGoing against the grain: Robert Eggers talks about making his latest film The Lighthouse

More From The Irish Examiner