Those at pitchside yesterday for Cork’s easy win over hosts Cork Institute of Technology in the McGrath Cup suggested the game’s importance ended with the last notes of the referee’s final whistle.
It would be hard to disagree at first glance. Cork fielded just five players who lined out in their championship exit last summer to Donegal, though they brought on three more who featured in that Croke Park defeat.
Students of yesterday’s game, scrappy as it was, would have noted one or two interesting alignments, however: Damien Cahalane, star of Castlehaven’s run to the Munster club final, lined out at corner-back, while Alan O’Connor, long-time midfielder, spent the first half at full-forward.
Neither man looked completely at ease in his new berth: Cahalane, one of life’s natural half-backs, made one surging upfield break but looked constricted back in the corner. O’Connor also looked a little unsure of the different angles near the goal and appeared happier when involved in midfield in the second half.
Cork were three ahead at the break, 0-8 to 0-5, with Colm O’Neill for the county side and Donal Óg Hodnett for the students doing most of the scoring for their respective teams. Cork had stretched their lead to four on the resumption when a short CIT kick-out was intercepted by the alert Liam Shorten, who played sub Donncha O’Connor in for the goal which ended the game as a contest.
Cork manager Conor Counihan sketched out the inter-county manager’s view of the early-season competitions.
“We’ve to try to look at players as best we can but we have 11 players tied up elsewhere with colleges and so on — it doesn’t really matter where they’re playing as long as we get to see them, but you’re limited in what you can do when you’re down that many, plus fellas who might be injured.
“We’ll mix and match as long as we’re involved in it. If we got through next week we’d get another game out of it, but that game [at home to Tipperary] will be a tough game. We’ll give everyone a run within reason.”
Every year has to start somewhere. Counihan could reflect on a hardworking display by Douglas’s Odhran Mulrooney, who got up and down the field well, chipped in with two points and also turned the ball over with clean tackles more than once.
Andrew O’Sullivan of Castletownbere did well in the middle of the field in the first half for Cork, while for CIT Donal Óg Hodnett’s industry on as tight a marker as Michael Shields will also have caught the eye of the Cork senior management. Less happily for the manager, Paul Kerrigan picked up a cheap second yellow and was sent off with a couple of minutes left.
Before going into the dressing room, Counihan added that Aidan Walsh faces a hearing during the week on his chances of lining out for DCU, while he sidestepped a question on Damien Cahalane’s long term availability — “We’re taking that one day at a time, we’ll see how that goes,” was his answer.
Given Cahalane’s membership of the county senior hurling panel last year, perhaps there was a bit more significance to yesterday than we first thought.
nBefore the game a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the late Joe McGrath, who trained Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and after whom the McGrath Cup is named.
Scorers for Cork: C O’Neill 0-4 (2f, 1 45), D O’Connor 1-1 (0-1f); O Mulrooney, P Kerrigan, P O’Neill 0-2 each; C O’Driscoll, S Kiely, A O’Sullivan and L Shorten 0-1 each.
Scorers for CIT: D Óg Hodnett 0-4 (3f); B O’Regan 0-2; C Lyons, J O’Connor, D Leahy, M Vaughan and A Sweeney (1f) 0-1 each.
CORK: D Lordan, J McLoughlin, M Shields,D Cahalane, D O’Sullivan, C O’Driscoll, S Kiely, P O’Neill, A O’Sullivan, J Fitzpatrick, P Kerrigan, O Mulrooney, C O’Neill, A O’Connor, L Shorten.
Subs: N O’Leary for O’Driscoll and D O’Connor for Fitzpatrick HT; P Kissane for D O’Sullivan, 40; K O’Halloran for Lordan, 51; C O’Donovan for A O’Sullivan, 57.
CORK IT: A O’Donoghue (Aghada); E Byrne (Bishopstown), M Griffin (St Michael’s, Foilmore); D O’Sullivan (Spa); C Lyons (St Finbarrs), B O’Sullivan (Valentia), J.Cronin (Lisgoold); S O’Donoghue (Ballincollig), P Daly (St. Mary’s, Cork); J O’Connor (Boherbue), B O’Regan (Nemo Rangers), D Leahy (Arravale Rovers); P Joy (Laune Rangers), D Óg Hodnett (O’Donovan Rossa), D Crowley (Bishopstown).
Subs: J Walsh (Knocknagoshel) for O’Donoghue (43); P Kilkenny (Glenbeigh-Glencar) for Cronin; M Vaughan (Millstreet) for J O’Connor (both 48); S Finn (Glanworth) for E Byrne (58); A Sweeney (Listry) for D Crowley (58).
Referee: E. Walsh (Kerry).