Cork core buried as Tribe flex muscles

REQUIEM for a team? The core of the Cork starting 15 who played in this All-Ireland SHC qualifier at the sun-baked Gaelic Grounds on Saturday have been there for the last decade and more.

During that time the Rebels won three All-Ireland titles (1999, 2004, 2005), five Munster championships and been involved in some of the most traumatic events in hurling history.

Was this their swansong, buried by a Galway side looking more and more ominous? Certainly Galway manager John McIntyre seems to think so.

“We have to keep a sense of perspective,” he said of Galway’s big win. “That Cork team has been drifting further and further off title-winning pace over the last six or seven years.

“We’re not the first team to knock them out of the championship in that period.”

It started so well for the Leesiders, a fantastic unanswered 1-3 in the opening eight minutes by relative newcomer Paudie O’Sullivan giving them the ideal start, and for a while they really looked the part again.

By half time, however, and inspired by a similar 1-3 from their own firebrand, corner-forward Damien Hayes, a stronger, hungrier, and ultimately far superior Galway outfit had already turned that six-point deficit into a five-point lead (1-12 to 1-7).

Cork fought back, one score between them in the 46th minute (1-14 to 1-11), but points from Ger Farragher and Iarla Tannian (referee James McGrath missing a blatant foul on Cork full-back Eoin Cadogan in the build-up) opened up the gap again. Then came Cork’s final opportunity, O’Sullivan again the man in position, but a goal-bound shot from point-blank range was brilliantly blocked by the sweeping David Collins.

From there Galway powered home, outscored a fading Cork 1-7 to 0-3, with sub Cyril Donnellan netting the second goal after a 40m solo run.

“It was important to back up the display against Clare,” said McIntyre, referring to last week’s huge win.

“If Carlsberg were doing consistency they wouldn’t be looking for the Galway senior hurlers a few weeks ago. But maybe they might have to change their view on that after Saturday night. The most pleasing aspect of our victory was we were in a hole after 10 minutes.

“There was a strong wind out there, we were playing with it, we were six points down, and it was turning into the ultimate test of character. If the backbone in that Galway team was as weak as some people thought it was three weeks ago, they could have very easily collapsed and fallen away. But they dug in, they played some great hurling to come back into the game, and I’m extremely proud of them.”

Seems such a long time ago now though, that dismal day against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final, not so much the defeat as the manner of it, a spiritless performance by Galway.

This was class, this was character, full-back Shane Kavanagh, with Fergal Moore and David Collins alongside, doing superbly after those early concessions, Tony Óg Regan anchoring a dominant half-back line (Adrian Cullinane magnificent), midfielders Andy Smith and David Burke ruling the roost, while up front, well, a whole battalion of big guns pounded the Cork rearguard.

Joe Gantley worked like a demon, involved in so much that was good for Galway, Ger Farragher fired over four fine points, Tannian was a powerhouse, Damien Hayes came out on top of a great duel with Brian Murphy, Alan Kerins rolled back the years with an omnipresent performance, sub Cyril Donnellan took his goal expertly.

And then there is that man Joe ‘Cannon’, as he’s becoming known in his native county. His nine points would have been 1-8 if the GAA had a genuine advantage rule, while a moment of individual genius in the 68th minute, a sublime reverse hand-pass to Burke fired over with aplomb, is one that will be recalled by hurling fans for a long time.

“The big difference maybe from the Dublin game, we have a stronger team on the field,” continued John Mac.

“It’s heartening to be part of a Galway team that has beaten Cork for the first time ever in consecutive championship matches. We did it the hard way but we’ll keep a sense of perspective.”

Perspective — Galway are coming, and coming hard. Cork — who would write the epitaph of these great players?

Scorers for Galway: J Canning 0-9 (4f, 1 65); D Hayes 1-4; G Farragher 0-4; C Donnellan 1-0; D Burke 0-2; A Smith 0-2; I Tannian, J Gantley, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Cork: P O’Sullivan 1-3; P Horgan 0-4 (2f); C McCarthy 0-3; N McCarthy 0-2; B Cooper, C Lehane 0-1 each.

Subs for Galway: B Daly (Smith 56); C Donnellan (Kerins 60); K Hynes (Tannian 65); J Coen (Gantley 66); D Joyce (Collins 67).

Subs for Cork: J Coughlan (O’Farrell 35); C Naughton (O’Neill 49); L McLoughlin (J O’Connor 56); B Cooper (C McCarthy 56); C Lehane (N McCarthy 66).

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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