Counihan points to Joanne as inspiration for three in-a-row

Conor Counihan’s knack of defusing the odd incendiary question with laughter was evident again yesterday.

Asked about the paucity of support for his team among the 22,827 crowd, he quipped: “I’d hate to see it if we were unsuccessful!”

It hardly bothered him anyway. Before the game, they got a message from inspirational Millstreet teenager Joanne O’Riordan, who addressed an international gathering at the UN in New York on Friday.

That meant more than any cheer.

“Sure look, we’ve a small group of people — they’re important people to us. There are some people that inspire us. Like, Joanne O’Riordan sent us a text before the game today and people like ... it doesn’t matter if it’s five or 50, we’re doing it for those group of people and doing it for the team themselves. That’s always been the way. That’s life.”

Division 1 champions for the third year in succession, Counihan was delighted with his team’s second-half performance which saw them transform a four-point deficit into a five-point cushion at the end.

He doesn’t much buy into the idea it promises more garlands later this year. At the same time, he wasn’t going to dismiss its importance either.

Asked whether it helps towards All-Ireland preparations, he said: “There are 31 other teams out there and they wouldn’t mind saying they’re National League champions 2012, so we won’t complain about it. But look it’s a total new ball game.

“The boys will go back to their clubs for the next week or two and we’ll come back focused on June 10 and that’s our next big challenge.

“It’s important to enjoy occasions like today. For Cork, national titles don’t come that often so we’re pleased to have three in a row.”

However, he added: “When I came in here last year after beating Dublin, most of you guys were writing off Pat Gilroy and telling him what he was and what he wasn’t!

“But the reality was he came and gave the answers. So, from our point of view, the league was great to win it but the reality is championship is a whole new ball game.”

Despite a number of flashpoints, Counihan felt the game was played in a good nature.

“I didn’t think there was any exceptional niggle in it. It was hard fought and I think everyone was going hard for it. The fact that everyone finished up on the field, I think, reflects that it wasn’t that bad.”

As much as the second-half impressed him, the opening 35 minutes left a lot to be desired.

“We lacked intensity, turned over a lot of ball, silly sort of stuff. To be fair to them (Cork players), they rallied in the second-half, played with a bit more patience, got a break or two with goals and goals really win matches.”

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