Too many from Cork didn’t want to know when the old beast roared

Just before half-time, I glanced down from the RTÉ box and observed Brian Cody spitting into his hands and rubbing them together.

Too many from Cork didn’t want to know when the old beast roared

Just before half-time, I glanced down from the RTÉ box and observed Brian Cody spitting into his hands and rubbing them together.

I’m not sure if a body-language coach somewhere would ever be interested in conducting a study on Cody, and his mood in that exact moment, but to me, it nearly always represents an excitement in him, an indication that Cody is happy with how his team are performing in that particular moment.

I said it to Henry Shefflin and Jackie Tyrrell beside me in the box but I knew Cody had to be licking his lips given that Kilkenny hadn’t played well and yet they were only two points down.

There were stages when Cork looked like they could bury Kilkenny. But they didn’t. And Cody sensed what many of us already felt about Cork.

I said it here on Saturday that Cork are the flakiest team in the country. When I questioned this team’s character during the league, I got bombarded with abuse on Twitter.

When I wondered before the Limerick match if the team was fully pulling together, I had people all around the county lining up to tell me I knew nothing about hurling.

Yesterday offered the firmest proof yet that there is something seriously missing in this group.

I don’t like questioning the character of players when I know how much they put into this thing but you have to ask serious question of the manliness of some of the players with the way in which some of them collapsed.

A couple of them, big names too, didn’t want to know about it when Kilkenny brought them into the trenches, as we all knew Kilkenny would.

Cork looked devastating in the first half, as they can when they’re on top of a team.

They could have been eight or nine points up at the break but once they left Kilkenny in the game, there’s no better crowd to smell blood and go bald-headed for the kill.

I knew well that the Kilkenny dressing room would be far more pumped up at half-time.

They knew that if they closed down the middle third and stopped the supply going into Patrick Horgan and Alan Cadogan, and forced Cork to bring Seamus Harnedy out the field, that Cork would be spooked.

And that’s effectively what happened.

Harnedy tried hard but he ended up being a stopgap, being moved to wherever Cork needed help.

He wasn’t as effective in open play as Cork needed him to be but that was as much of a reflection on the players around him — Horgan and Cadogan aside — than Harnedy himself.

Kilkenny didn’t allow Daniel Kearney his usual latitude either. That left corner that Cork were trying to free up to hit Horgan and Cadogan with as much ball as possible was largely shut down by Conor Fogarty in the second half.

Kearney’s role has largely been a success under John Meyler but when it didn’t work yesterday, there didn’t seem to be a Plan B.

Conor Lehane was non-existent, taking terrible options with the few balls he was on. Apart from Tim O’Mahony, Cork had zero impact off their bench.

It’s as sure as death and taxes now that Kilkenny will just not be outworked and out-battled but everyone thought beforehand that Cork would just have the firepower to shoot them down.

If you told anyone prior to 2pm that the Cork full-forward line would score 3-16, you’d have expected Cork to win by 10 points or more.

But you can’t be relying on three fellas to beat Kilkenny, especially when Kilkenny are fighting on their backs.

I don’t like using the term ruck ball, especially when it’s a term borrowed from a game with an oval ball, but Kilkenny just ate Cork alive on the ground. Cork fellas were just standing up.

For the first 20 minutes of the second half, some of them didn’t want to know about it, full stop.

Cork’s puckout malfunctioned but what did they do about it?

In fairness to Anthony Nash, he couldn’t have done much more with many of the balls he pinged short but the next phase of play and transition wasn’t good enough, or sharp enough, and Kilkenny ate Cork alive on that possession.

Some of these Cork players seem to think that class will just win out but it simply won’t at this level in the modern game.

Maybe they’re caught in a mental time-warp but Kilkenny have consistently proven that class only really matters anymore when its married with relentless workrate.

Kilkenny may not be the force of old but Cork are codding themselves too if they think that they have more class and silk than Kilkenny.

Colin Fennelly’s flick down for Hogan’s goal was the play of the day for me, as much for the vision to spot Hogan and turn the hurley to deflect the ball into his path at the exact right moment, and into the right place.

Pat Horgan celebrates scoring a goal. Photo: INPHO/Gary Carr
Pat Horgan celebrates scoring a goal. Photo: INPHO/Gary Carr

I can’t figure why they took Hogan off, unless his back flared up again and that they’re saving him for two weeks’ time.

TJ Reid didn’t score from play but he was a massive ball-winning outlet in the second half. Fogarty was outstanding.

Walter Walsh made a massive impact when introduced. Joey Holden was in trouble early on but he was heroic near the end when Cork came with their late onslaught.

Kilkenny just have ferocious character. They have the men that Cork don’t.

A handful of Cork players are exempt from that accusation but you still have to question Cork as a group.

The manner in which Cork surrendered in the second quarter, when so many of their players effectively waved the white flag with almost half an hour to go, has turned another promising summer into another long winter of soul searching.

It will be a whole different winter in Laois because, unless Wexford win the All-Ireland, Laois have been the hurling story of the year.

It was no surprise that Tipperary clapped Laois on their lap around the pitch because there was nothing patronising about the act — Tipp knew just how hard they got it from Laois.

They put up a good score; their defensive shape was solid; they worked like dogs. And it was a testament to Laois that they could hold this Tipp attack to what they did given that they were reduced to 14 men so early in the second half.

Laois are in a great place this morning but the big question now is what happens next? We saw it with the Carlow footballers last year.

We’ve seen it with plenty of teams from that type of a background in the past where any ascent up the gradient is soon followed by a quicker descent back down the slope.

There are plenty of other hurlers in Laois good enough to be on this panel but are they willing to commit to the level required in the future?

If they do, they’ll need to put in a savage winter of hard training to make up the ground they’ve lost by not being involved this year.

When I was involved with Dublin, we had plenty of dog days and bad days but when won they league in 2011, the challenge then was what could we do next? Could we finally win Leinster?

I’m not saying Laois have to start thinking that big just yet but they’re the type of questions they need to start asking if they are to really become a consistent force at this level.

Laois had some superb performances, none more so than Jack Kelly and Ryan Mullaney.

The manliness and honesty of Laois’ efforts added to the atmosphere.

It was a day of days for Laois supporters while even though Tipp won pulling up, the manner of their performance almost prevented their own crowd from acknowledging a comprehensive win on the scoreboard.

Liam Sheedy said all the right stuff at the end but I’m sure he was thinking the exact opposite. There was an air of cockiness about Tipperary’s approach.

They might have won by ten points but they went home wounded and I’d say there will be a lot of hard talking done in training this week.

I’d say the most disappointed man leaving Croke Park yesterday may have been Davy Fitzgerald.

The ideal scenario for him, other than a Laois win, would have been a devastating Tipperary performance.

Now, Wexford will go into that All-Ireland semi-final as favourites in the minds of lots of people.

That will suit Liam and his players down to the ground but you’d wonder too what John Kiely was thinking on the drive home.

Deep down, he probably expected to be meeting Cork.

At face value, Kilkenny might seem like a more attractive prospect now, given that Limerick have struggled with Cork in the last 12 months.

Yet Kilkenny proved they’re a completely different animal when they get to Croke Park.

And when you see Cody spitting into those hands, you know full well that the beast is getting ready to roar.

Hurling podcast: The Cork inquest: no excuses this time. Cody the firefighter. Tipp try gegenpressing

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