Any chance Cork are codding us ahead of great weekend of NHL action?

When the Cork- Dublin hurling/football double-header was first played in Croke Park in 2014, Cork edged the hurling match by one point. I met Jimmy Barry-Murphy upstairs afterwards and he was delighted.

Any chance Cork are codding us ahead of great weekend of NHL action?

It was a good run-out, a good win for JBM and Cork at headquarters. We had been there plenty of times before with Dublin as curtain-raisers to the footballers but the fixture seemed to be a liberating experience for Cork, and they thrived on it.

Last year, they cut loose, nailing Dublin for 34 points. These Cork players are made for Croke Park but you just wonder now, has the novelty worn off?

Cork will want to win and to perform but does it really matter? Dublin could win this evening and still have to face Cork in a relegation play-off because the Dubs still have to travel to Kilkenny and Waterford. Hypothetically, if a Cork-Dublin relegation final happens, and Cork win the coin-toss and get home advantage, who would you fancy in Páirc Uí Rinn? Exactly.

The system is flawed. A league is a league. Where you finish is where you deserve to be, especially around relegation positions.

If you are bottom, you deserve to go down. Five games does limit the opportunities to pick up points, while increasing the risk of being relegated, which is why there needs to be more regular season games.

Kieran Kingston may very well be saying to himself: “Let’s inflate the perception now that we have no hope going into the summer.” A lot of people on Leeside already think as much. I met a supporter coming out of Pearse Stadium after Galway trounced them and he was nearly writing off their season there and then. “That’s all we have, boy,” he said.

Cork are better than that, but by how much? They showed what they are capable of in the last 14 minutes against Waterford but it isn’t good enough that Aidan Walsh needs blood running down his face from a high tackle to trigger the kind of fire Cork showed in that last quarter.

The Cork bench went bananas after the incident. Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan invaded the pitch and unleashed crazed fury. He seemed to be directing it at the referee but he also appeared to be transmitting it to his players.

“Are we going to take this for much longer? Are we going to lie down or get up and fight?” You even got that sense from the crowd. “Are ye soft?”

In fairness to the players, they responded and showed they are not as soft as everyone thinks. They threw off the shackles and went for it in those last 14 minutes. Mark Ellis came on and cut loose. Shane O’Neill and Steven McDonnell threw caution to the wind.

Cork nearly got a result when they should have been beaten out of sight. That was a positive but they shouldn’t have to wait for ‘The Rock’ to come onto the pitch roaring to goad them into producing what they need to deliver for 70 minutes.

You will find it hard to turn on those sporadic bursts in big games in Munster. You might get away with it once but you’ll be found out the second day. That has happened to Cork in Munster in the past. They haven’t showed true form but form, excuse the repeated phraseology, has many forms. It’s about showing fight and spirit and resistance consistently.

The Dubs also have to prove tonight that they can back up what they delivered against Galway. After the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat, last year’s league hammering, plus the narrow league semi-final loss,

Dublin have enough hurt stored from Cork defeats to demand the trend stops here. This is a great opportunity for Dublin. Their needs might be just greater to bag the two points.

(As an aside, great to meet Ryan O’Dwyer last Saturday, looking fit and helping Dublin’s minors. How many more injured inter-county stars would you see do that? What an asset to Dublin

Just like Cork, there is still also that undercurrent of softness with Galway. Their game with Dublin was well flagged; Parnell Park is a fortress for the Dubs; Dublin had to win, with it effectively being their only home game. Galway knew all of the above but they were still lifeless and allowed themselves to be dictated to. That is not good enough either.

The way Dublin cleaned them out on their own puckout also highlighted how important Johnny Glynn is to Galway’s cause. I see Johnny has hooked up now with the New York footballers but if I was Micheal Donoghue, I’d be on the blower to Johnny straight away to try and get him back for the summer. Galway desperately need him if they are to make a serious dent in the championship.

Galway need warriors going to Nowlan Park because you know the kind of war Kilkenny will bring. Micheal will demand a response but they also have fewer excuses than other teams. They had very few players on Fitzgibbon Cup duty last weekend. Joe Canning should be back fit and well. If they failed in the fortress of Parnell, this is an even bigger fortress. Kilkenny will want to put some distance between them and the teams around them and they’ll hardly let Galway out of their backyard with a win.

Derek McGrath continues to take his Waterford side to the next level but the one project I think he needs to focus a little more on is Austin Gleeson. He is an unbelievable player, a guy I’d compare to Ken McGrath. Praise doesn’t come any higher but Gleeson was sent off for Waterford IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final against Limerick IT, at a vital stage, and he was involved when Aidan Walsh broke his nose two weeks ago, though fair enough James Owens didn’t see it as a foul,.

He needs to be careful. Gleeson does live on the edge. I wouldn’t say it’s looseness, it’s more trying to prove that he is The Man already. I suffered a touch of that attitude myself when Clare were struggling, that I certainly hadn’t when I was established.

Gleeson just has that attitude that Brian Lohan, Seanie McMahon, Jamesie O’Connor, and Ollie Baker had in Clare as young players: “I’m good enough to win an All-Ireland, I want that medal, I will get it.” They never saw themselves going through their careers not getting it. Gleeson has that mentality too but it needs to be channeled in the right manner. He has the perfect mentor for that in Derek, who needs to eradicate that glitch from his system.

I fancy Waterford tomorrow because I think Tipp’s defence needs work. I think one of the most interesting jousts of the weekend is Kerry-Wexford. With the game on in Tralee, the hurlers might get more of a crowd than the footballers at a game for the first time. The north Kerry hurling people will be saying, “We’ll go into town to support the lads, they deserve it.”

Kerry have a great chance to make a massive statement and put one foot into a quarter-final but this is about mentality now as much as anything else. The game is live on TV, something that has never happened to Kerry before. They’ll be saying in Ardfert and Ballyduff and Lixnaw — I can even picture them talking to the players after mass in Kilmoyley this evening or in the morning — “Ye’ll bate Wexford boys.”

That is the real challenge for Kerry. Can they overcome that level of expectation and pressure? Wexford are under a different pressure.

Everything is reportedly going well in training but sometimes you can try too hard, have too many meetings, look to go that extra mile when all you really need to do is relax and cut loose on the day.

That’s the approach Wexford need. Kerry have taken many a scalp in Tralee in the past (October ‘95 comes to mind), but Wexford are forewarned.

If not, their season is in a shambles already.

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