In previous years, according to Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Cork would have folded following the concession of Maurice Shanahan’s goal, writes Eoghan Cormican.
Crumbled, was the exact word he used.
There was no crumbling yesterday, certainly not by anyone wearing red anyway.
The Rebels had outscored their opponents by five points to two upon the resumption when Shanahan pulled first time for the contest’s sole major on 46 minutes. What would be the Cork response, we wondered. More pertinently, would there be a Cork response?
Seamus Harnedy, as he did all afternoon, showed the required leadership to win a free off Barry Coughlan on 48 minutes. Patrick Horgan duly obliged from the resulting placed ball.
Next up, Bill Cooper, who must have been watching Damien Comer last weekend, knocked Kevin Moran with the mother and father of all shoulders. Moran attempted to lay off possession as he fell to the ground but Lehane swooped in and steered the sliotar between the posts.
In the ensuing passage of play, Alan Cadogan, who had an indifferent sort of an afternoon, finally got the hop of the ball to write his name onto the scoresheet.
Goal wiped. As you were, gentlemen, Cork three to the good. The resilience shown here, said the selector, was most encouraging.
“The funny thing is it is a goal we could have prevented. Of all the things we did, that was probably the sloppiest thing we did at the back all day. But how did we respond? We came back down and got the next point. That was the big thing. Before, we would have crumbled. Fellas have been on our back, ‘this team will have went into their shell and crumbled’. But we showed great resilience.
“Even when Colm [Spillane] went off on a second yellow and Waterford got a score. We went down the field and we got the next two points. We showed great resilience.” There were other questions put to this team by the public, he felt, which Cork answered emphatically over the course of the 70 minutes.
“Could we put back-to-back performances together was a big thing. We got honesty of effort here. And the most important thing, if you are willing to make mistakes in a game - attack the ball, miss it, go for a score, miss it - we don’t mind. They have to express themselves. Hurling is about expressing yourself. We have asked our lads continuously that irrespective of whatever we face, make mistakes. That is what the game is about. You can’t be perfect all the time. We made plenty of mistakes but you have to keep pushing, looking for more. We did.”
Stringing back-to-back displays, he admitted, was more satisfying than the defeat of Tipperary at this venue last month.
“I suppose it is. We replaced four or five guys today who were out on their feet. That is all you want. Now, we are not going to get carried away. This was about a performance.
“Okay, the performance led to a result which puts us into a Munster final, which, ultimately, will put us in either an All-Ireland quarter or semi-final. It is just a performance. It is a key to the next step, which happens to be a Munster final. That is a really positive thing for Cork hurling in general.”
That four members of the Waterford attack were substituted before the finish – Michael Brick Walsh, Austin Gleeson and the two Bennetts, Stephen and Shane – tells you all you need to know about this particular defensive effort from Cork.
“We’ve been in this thing 18 months. A lot of these lads have been in this 18 months with us. We know each other a lot better. The defenders know each other a lot better. They are comfortable with one another.
“When you can trust the guy beside you, it makes an awful difference. The trust factor that is now within our group is huge.”
Further up, Patrick Horgan, the contributor of 10 points, was also singled out for praise. “Prior to this year’s league, Patrick Horgan had 18 months of non-stop action. Patrick Horgan needed a rest during the league. We gave him a rest. Now we can see Patrick Horgan is able to hurl again. He is expressing himself.
“He is putting himself in positions where he can get on the ball. But not only that, when Patrick Horgan doesn’t have the ball, he is working like a dog. Patrick is giving us that as much as any of our defenders.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.