Understated performers backbone Cork's victory over Limerick

When you watch a match back for a second time, you become aware of a million more nuggets of information you might have missed while witnessing a contest in real-time.

That, of course, is no revelation. Obviously, when a person is caught up in a game as it is going on, you might not notice the less apparent details.

After all, we are only human and trying to keep tabs on what is happening in front of you with 30 players on a field is not the easiest of tasks.

And last Sunday, at the Gaelic Grounds, it was obvious that the likes of Eoin Cadogan, Mark Coleman and Alan Cadogan performed outstandingly well for a resurgent Cork.

Earlier in the year, I argued the return of Alan Cadogan might be the missing piece to the Rebels’ evolving jigsaw given his absence last year robbed John Meyler of a player with a unique attacking spark.

So when it became apparent he would not be available for the meeting with Tipperary last Sunday week, concerns grew about the Leesiders’ ability to overcome the Premier.

Then, when news broke in the ground that Bill Cooper would also have to miss out in the opening round, the pendulum swung in the favour of Liam Sheedy’s outfit.

The Cadogans and Coleman correctly have gotten the plaudits for wonderful contributions against Limerick. Ditto the ever-dynamic Daniel Kearney.

And more and more people are beginning to realise the importance of Cooper. It’s taken some commentators and fans alike time to appreciate his worth, but they are catching up.

But, aside from those names, there were two others that performed critical roles for the Rebels in the seven-point defeat of John Kiely’s side.

And I only really took this in on playback of the game.

First, the excellence of Niall O’Leary was massively encouraging as – and the dog on the street knows this – Cork’s full-back line has been shaky in recent years.

And it was at its shakiest in Pairc Ui Chaoimh last Sunday week.

Yet, there was a hint of a Wayne Sherlock about O’Leary’s display. Now, one swallow never made a summer and all that, so we get that he has a world of work to do to ever truly be compared to a player of Sherlock’s calibre.

However, just in his body language and driven approach, you could see a little bit of Sherlock in the way he operates.

If O’Leary is one-quarter of the player Sherlock was, Cork have a potential gem of a corner-back on their hands, and one that will improve with game-time, you would think.

I have been waxing lyrical about the potential of this team for months now, especially with the U21s of last year trying to push on and become regulars at senior level.

And the likes of the Castlelyons young man has to give Cork supporters hope that there is something really stirring within this senior group because they are fearless and incredibly confident individuals.

Declan Dalton’s two late scores are another case in point to support that theory. The white flag he registered from under the covered stand was an audacious effort, the kind of shot you only attempt if you have absolute conviction in your capabilities.

Of course, I could be horribly wrong and these players do not kick-on in their careers.

Nevertheless, I am convinced this group is the real deal.

Yes, they only won one match and must now back it up against Waterford.

Yet, I would be extremely surprised if they fail to beat the Deise, based on what we have seen from Paraic Fanning’s outfit so far in this competition.

Back to that playback of the Limerick-Cork encounter, though.

And the other man whose performance was also brilliant in an understated context was that of Mark Ellis.

We all adore hurlers and footballers that light up matches with their finesse in possession and capacity to produce moments that almost make us double-take.

Yet, without players like Ellis, the attacking artists in teams will not thrive.

Like Cooper, Ellis brings a presence and balance to a key sector of the field. Very rarely will you see Ellis do something flashy. But then, that is not his job. What he does is defend like a warrior and develop plays into midfield. At his best, Ellis, alongside Cooper, would have to be considered one of two of Cork’s most important players.

Of course, Patrick Horgan is, by now, a legend of the code in Cork. And is the Leesiders’ most vital presence offensively.

However, in the overall scheme of things, peak Ellis and Cooper are also essential cogs in the wheel.

Kyle Hayes, who often contributes three or four points per game for the Treaty, was contained to the point he only raised one white flag.

And when the game, as it regularly does nowadays, became disjointed in the second half, Ellis did a job on whichever player needed to be picked up coming through that central channel.

A similar Cork performance when Waterford roll into town should yield a victory in the region of five-plus points.

Still, it is the game away to Clare which will be difficult.

However, if Cork go on now and get out of Munster, the Rebels could really thrive in the open expanses of Croke Park.

One step at a time, of course, but Meyler’s unit are motoring.

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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