Not since the strike of 2009 has a Cork hurling team lost three league games on the bounce, while Saturday’s 10 point mauling was the third time in the last 10 months that the county has endured a double-digit defeat.
On Saturday night, Cork were 4-20 to 0-14 in arrears after 65 minutes. Between the 12th and 24th minutes, they were hit for 3-6 without reply. The first three scores of this Dublin burst stemmed from routine mistakes by men wearing the red and white; two sloppy clearances and Christopher Joyce over-carrying allowing David Treacy (0-2 frees) and Liam Rushe nudged the hosts in front. There followed three Dublin goals, bagged one after another on 19, 22 and 24 minutes.
Following David Treacy’s strike to raise a second green flag, Anthony Nash opted to go short to Bill Cooper from the ensuing puck-out. The half-forward failed to hold onto the ball, though, and David O’Callaghan set in motion a sweeping move that finished with Seán McGrath sending the sliotar scorching to the net. 3-8 to 0-4 read the scoreboard. Game over.
And even if Kieran Kingston’s charges were to shock Kilkenny and Tipperary in the closing two rounds, their involvement in the relegation play-off is almost inevitable. But as selector Pat Ryan mused underneath the Cusack Stand following this latest setback, their problems extend far beyond the possibility of spending a spring below in Division 1B.
“We need to take a good look at where we are going and what we are at. We need to do something to make sure a performance like that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“I don’t think relegation is the worry now as we stand here after that performance. Any fella who wouldn’t have a clue about hurling would know that was not good enough.
“There wasn’t a hand put on any fella for the four goals. Nash hadn’t a hope for any of them because there was nobody putting pressure on them.”
The post-mortem, similar to the final scoreline, will be hard to stomach: the Cork full-forward line was outscored from play by the Dublin half-back line of Rushe, Johnny McCaffrey and the lively Shane Barrett, Cork’s top-scorer Patrick Horgan was removed, as was captain Stephen McDonnell and Daniel Kearney. Is the team suffering from a crisis of confidence?
“We could have taken off another 10 or 12 with them. That is just the way it was.
“You can blame confidence all you want. If you run and you chase and you hook and you block, confidence comes along after that, but we just didn’t do those things.”
A Patrick Horgan free on 26 minutes ended a 20-minute barren spell for the visitors, but no hint of a comeback materialised.
Mark Schutte, following a mistake by sub Stephen Murphy, played through Eamon Dillon for his second and Dublin’s fourth on 48 minutes
. And but for a superb Bill Cooper intervention to deny Niall McMorrow on 56 minutes, Ger Cunningham’s side would have had a fifth.
“When you play any competitive sport, your attitude has to be the first thing. Our attitude wasn’t good enough. You can have all the hurling you want, and all the touch and all the fitness, but if your attitude isn’t right, you are going to get blown away.
“If we can’t fix it with the players, we will have to go outside and bring other fellas in.”
Supporters who shuffled, disheartened and dejected, back onto Jones Road will be hoping the blue jerseys to be worn against Kilkenny in commemoration of their 1916 attire can spark an uprising from the bottom of the league table.
“It doesn’t get any easier from here. It is about manning up. You can’t hide from it, continued Ryan.
“What we are looking for is a response from the lads. As a management team, we have to take it on the chin as well. They need to see a response off us. A big crowd will always follow Cork up here to Croke Park. To perform like that is not good enough.
“Not good enough for us, not good enough for ye, not good for anything.”
D Treacy (1-7, 0-5 frees); E Dillon (2-3); S McGrath (1-0); M Schutte, N McMorrow, S Barrett (0-2 each); D O’Callaghan, L Rushe, J McCaffrey, S Treacy, D Plunkett (0-1 each).
P Horgan (0-7, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ‘65); S Harnedy (2-0); C Lehane (0-4); P Haughney (0-1 ‘65), L Farrell (0-2 each); B Lawton, B Cooper (0-1 each).
C Dooley; E O’Donnell, C O’Callaghan, O Gough; S Barrett, L Rushe, J McCaffrey; D O’Connell, D Plunkett; S McGrath, N McMorrow, D Treacy; D O’Callaghan, M Schutte, E Dillon.
C Cronin for McGrath (HT), J Boland for McCaffrey (57), S Treacy for O’Callaghan, F McGibb for D Treacy (both 64), J Madden for O’Callaghan (68).
A Nash; S McDonnell, K Burke, C Joyce; D Cahalane, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, B Lawton; B Cooper, S Harnedy, C Lehane; L O’Farrell, P Cronin, P Horgan.
L McLoughlin for Murphy (27 mins), P Haughney for Kearney (31), S Murphy for McDonnell (HT), P O’Sullivan for Cronin (44), W Leahy for P Horgan (61).
A Kelly (Galway).