Cork face Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final in Nenagh today (throw-in 2.30pm) and manager John Middleton is pleased with how the squad has developed from a slightly shaky start.
“We trawled the county,” he said, “I think we looked at something like 110 players and we felt that we picked the best 33.
“In the first match against Limerick in the Munster championship, we were physically outplayed in the first half and we were in trouble at half-time, but we got them to up the intensity.
“You learn about players’ characters on a cold February day and they put their shoulders to the wheel and knew themselves that they would have to play at a high tempo.”
Victories over Clare and Limerick in the group stages of the All-Ireland secured Cork’s passage to semi-finals, meaning that the final match, a defeat to Galway, was academic. Nevertheless, Middleton feels it served a purpose of re-focusing minds.
“I wouldn’t say that it complacency but we tried out a few players in different positions and things didn’t come off for us on the day, we had enough chances to win.
“Maybe in a way, though, getting the taste of losing after winning three on the trot wasn’t a bad thing, and the girls responded well in the semi-final against Tipp.
Now Kilkenny await, and Middleton knows it won’t be easy: “I saw them play against Tipperary on St Patrick’s Day,” he said.
“They’re a very well-balanced side and are strong up the middle, so we know that we’ll be in for a tough game.
CORK: A Lee (Na Piarsaigh); S Ring (Brian Dillons), L Treacy (Killeagh), A Curtin (Douglas); E Kavanagh (Douglas), L Callanan (Glen Rovers, captain), S O’Leary (Valley Rovers); J Hosford (Glen Rovers), J Hennigan (Ballincollig); C Murphy (Kilbrittain/Timoleague), O Cronin (Enniskeane), K Hickey (Blackrock); A O’Connor (St Vincent’s), R Sheehan (Carrigtwohill), L Collins (Courcey Rovers).
KILKENNY: N Murphy (Lisdowney); C Farrell (Thomastown), C Foley (Windgap), M Kenneally (Windgap); M Farrell (Thomastown, captain), M O’Connell (Clara), A Butler (Thomastown); L Fitzpatrick (St Lachtain’s), A Nolan (Clara); M Walsh (Tullaroan), S Whelan (St Anne’s), A Gannon (Rower-Inistioge); A Talbot (Piltown), C Holden (Mullinavat), M Corcoran (St Anne’s). Subs: N Bolger (Thomastown), N Sweeney (St Anne’s), N Donnelly (Thomastown), K Doheny (Freshford), D Walsh (Mooncoin), E Moylan (Windgap), L Long (Piltown), C Nolan (Clara), S Corcoran (St Anne’s), E O’Dwyer (Ballyhale Shamrocks), E Fitzpatrick (Ballyhale Shamrocks), D Phelan (Piltown), C Byrne (Clara), J Norris (Piltown), L Hegarty (Lisdowney), S McCarthy (Piltown), R Crowley (Mooncoin).