JBM flags up Cork’s mental preparations

Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy has won a phenomenal 24 Munster championship medals.

He won 10 in senior inter-county hurling with Cork (sharing that record with Tipperary’s John Doyle); two in senior inter-county football; two more at U21 hurling; one in U21 football; two each at minor hurling and football; three in club hurling and two in club football with St Finbarr’s.

No-one better, then, to prepare the many Munster final debutants in his Cork team to face Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, to inform them of what awaits them.

“You’ve got to be very mindful the occasion doesn’t pass them by, that’s the big thing with young players. We played a league final last year and I felt it passed us by early on. We were caught cold, even on the sideline, by Kilkenny, we weren’t mentally ready for the challenge on the day.”

On that occasion, because Cork had beaten Kilkenny only a few weeks earlier in the regular rounds of the league, many felt they would really put it up to the Cats in the final. Didn’t happen. Instead, a 3-21 to 0-16 blowout, Cork heads in the wrong place. Can’t let that happen this Sunday.

“The reality is that when Kilkenny play for silverware, it’s a very different occasion than a league game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Nowlan Park. We were caught cold. It’s a big task to get them (players) right mentally. You’re going to play Limerick in Limerick, they’re going to have a huge following, though I think we’ll have a fabulous following as well. But it’s going to be a massive occasion and the key is preparing them to be mentally ready for that.”

Not that you pretend it’s a minor event. Recognise it for what it is and embrace it. Control it, don’t ignore it, but don’t let it overwhelm you either.

“You want them to look forward to the occasion, but you want to make sure too it doesn’t pass you by without being overawed by it. It’s brilliant to be part of it again, that’s what we’re thrilled about.

“Before we played Clare we told the players the Munster final is still a great occasion, same as the Leinster final. The build-up is phenomenal and it’s exciting for all of us to be back part of it.”

Occasion is the word too. The Munster senior hurling final is one of the great GAA events, the Gaelic Grounds one of the great Munster venues, Limerick and Cork one of the great Munster hurling rivalries.

Throw in the forecasted sun, the dry ball, the fast pitch — all the ingredients are there for another classic game in what is already shaping up to be a classic hurling championship.

“It’s a beautiful stadium in Limerick and the pitch the last day (Cork’s semi-final win over Clare) was unbelievable, the best pitch we played on in the last couple of years. There’s phenomenal interest around Cork, even after winning just one game.!

“I think it’s the fact it’s the Munster final and the public seemed to also respond to the way we played. Whether we can reproduce that now, that’s the question. But there is a great sense of euphoria around the team and great excitement going training, and, obviously, the weather is helping!

“People love training in these conditions and there’s been a lot of people in watching training — that gives the players a buzz. It’s new to a lot of them which really adds to it.”

New to a lot of them, not new to Jimmy, nor to his trusted lieutenants on the sideline. Cool heads, that’s what will be needed, making the right moves to counteract Limerick, just as they did in that semi-final win over Clare.

“We haven’t played Limerick so it’s a different ball game. Obviously there are players there that we’d like to nullify. I’m a fierce believer though in home advantage, it IS a factor.

“Limerick are a great hurling county, they’ve a great tradition and support.

“They see a chance now but we’re hoping for a huge following and we think we will have. I sense great interest around Cork in this.”

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