Cork’s latest no-show against Waterford was the final straw, it cannot be dismissed as a once-off.
Put simply, this Cork team aren’t up to much.
When Cork arrive into Semple Stadium for Munster championship hurling, you expect each and everyone of their players to be up to scratch, to be able to hurl.
Watching Cork on Sunday it became clear that one-third of the starting team are not up to inter-county standard.
The team that took the field against Waterford, give or take two or three changes in personnel, is the team that collapsed against Tipperary in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and the outfit that didn’t show up against the Déise in last month’s league decider.
Cork aren’t inconsistent, they’re simply not good enough.
2-18 the Cork defence leaked against Tipperary last year, 1-24 conceded in the league final and 3-19 they were taken for at the weekend — and still Jimmy Barry-Murphy refuses to re-jig his rearguard.
The ease at which the Cork defence was opened up when Colin Dunford ran at them on Sunday was frightening.
This Cork defence is conceding big tallies each time they go out. This is the third year of it.
Management always make mistakes, there is no such thing as a perfect management. But if you continue to do the same thing as you did two-years ago and last year, you are going to get the same result, granted Cork did make the 2013 All-Ireland final.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy is persisting with the same players that are not up to inter-county standard. He brought one man back on Sunday, Brian Murphy, and he had a very good game. He should have knocked also at the doors of Conor O’Sullivan, William Egan and Cian McCarthy.
I don’t believe the team that took to the field on Sunday is the strongest bunch of hurlers in Cork at present. It is not their fault they are being sent out to battle. Management must be held to account in that regard.
It wasn’t an act of panic that led management to bring back Brian Murphy. It was a realisation that what was there wasn’t good enough. They should have cast the net wider.
Defence is similar to the foundation of a house, it must be rock solid. If it is not secure then the house will fall. How many times have Cork fallen now over the past two years?
Jimmy is an iconic figure, but that does not mean he is immune from criticism.
It is a similarly bleak picture further forward. Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane, not for the first time, went missing for large segments of Sunday’s clash.
Patrick Cronin aside, they have no ball winners in attack. They can’t win the ball on the ground or in the air. Their work-rate also leaves so much to be desired.
Compare the work-rate of Shane Fives, Noel Connors, Philip Mahony and Barry Coughlan to their opposite numbers. There is no comparison.
Cork were flattered by Sunday’s scoreline and have some serious, serious work to do from here.
If they were to come up against Dublin or Wexford or whatever other big teams end up in the qualifiers, I am not sure they’d beat them.
Certainly the big teams that will still be involved after the quarter-finals weekend, I can’t see Cork matching them.
One team I expect to be still in the hunt come August is Waterford.
You have to admire Derek McGrath. He has shown both courage and decisiveness as Waterford manager.
Waterford are expressing themselves that little bit more each time they go out and I feel there is still a small bit of road to be travelled in that regard before they can be labelled a top-class team.
Their defence is packed with leaders which sits in stark contrast to the lack of leaders Cork had on Sunday.
I believe Waterford have a better balanced team than they had in the middle of the last decade. Certainly, their defence is stronger. They also appear more grounded.
They can now aim for the stars, and justifiably so. A Munster final appearance should not and won’t be enough for them. Their graph is rising all the time.
The have brought their league form into championship, which many teams have often failed to do.
This was a victory achieved without Pauric Mahony, a man who routinely contributed double-figure tallies throughout the league. It showed they are not a one-man, two-man or three-man team.
They continue to change perceptions, continue to convince the doubters.
Cork, meanwhile, continue to disappoint.