Cunningham rues concession of late free

Cunningham rues concession of late free

Former Cork All-Star hurler Ger Cunningham has questioned the decision by referee Johnny Ryan to award a late free which resulted in an equalising goal in yesterday's Munster SHC final between Cork and Waterford.

Cunningham said that while the late free was dubiously awarded, the 2-15 to 2-15 draw ensured that any controversial decisions by the match officials were balanced out.

"I'm presuming that the referee blew for the fact of playing the hurley. It certainly looked a dubious decision, and the fact that it finished up with a 21-metre free in front of the goal," said the goalkeeping great.

"It was dubious, but fair play to Waterford they never gave up. They got a great goal at the end.

"Overall you would have to say it was a dubious decision, but maybe it balances out with the fact of the controversy about Ben O'Connor's free in the first half that actually went wide."

And Cunningham says he was not surprised that yesterday's Thurles decider finished in a draw, considering just three points or less separated these great rivals in the last four meetings, with the sides also requiring a replay when they last met in the Championship back in 2007.

"History will tell us that there is nothing between these two teams when they play. Every time they go against each other there is only a puck of the ball in it.

"I think both teams at the end of the day will probably come away and say, 'let's go at it again'.

"I think whoever wins it (the replay) will get a good advantage, in that it will bring them a week closer to the All-Ireland semi-final, and the benefit of another game.

"Okay, the losers will have to go again the following week, but that's the luck of the draw. I think both teams at the end of it will say that they both could have won it, and both could have lost it."

Cunningham feels that yesterday's Munster final was overshadowed by the events at Croke Park and the controversial finish to the Leinster football final. However, he is glad that the Munster decider will be able to take more of the limelight next Saturday evening at Semple Stadium (throw-in 7pm).

"From a hurling perspective it is one of the highlights of the year. It is a very special day, and there is no doubt that yesterday probably other people who weren't at the game wouldn't have see it, but other events at Croke Park overshadowed it.

"I think maybe at the start that it was a little bit tense and the tactics may have a bit of a part to play in that.

"It took a while, it took basically until the second half for the game to open up. But I think once it opened up you had a great 35 minutes of hurling," he admitted.

And looking ahead to the replay, Cunningham reckons that both sets of forwards will need to up their scoring rate from open play. Yesterday afternoon, three players in each attack failed to score, with Cork relying mostly on the contribution of Ben O'Connor (1-5, 0-4f); while Eoin Kelly (1-8, 0-6f, 0-1 '65') claimed the bulk of the Deise's scores.

"I think both managements are going to be looking for their forwards to increase the scoring rate. Both Cork and Waterford, I think three of their forwards didn't score from play.

"I think from a Cork point of view, looking at it from the outside looking in, potentially the injuries to Sean Og (O hAilpin) and Jerry O'Connor - I think it will be crucial whether they are able to play or not. An overall improvement from both sets of forwards from scoring would be a priority for both managements."

And Cunningham feels that despite the Cork side's advancing years, the Rebels are as hungry as ever to finish the job next weekend and qualify directly for an All-Ireland semi-final.

"They have been around a long time, and it's their first Munster final in four years. Any silverware or any final is worth winning.

"These guys will be looking at, I don't think their eye is on an All-Ireland semi-final. I think it's on their own performance and their own confidence and actually winning a Munster Championship.

"The benefits of that are there for everyone to see, that they go into the semi-final. I think both sets of supporters and both sets of players will be looking at it - the only thing they will be focusing on, on Saturday, is winning the Munster Championship."

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