Stakes are high for Cork and Tipp's showdown in Semple Stadium, warns John Considine

Liam Sheedy and Henry Shefflin, present in Hayes’ Hotel in Thurles for the launch of RTÉ’s championship coverage earlier this month, were 10 minutes poring through the runners and riders for Liam MacCarthy before first mentioning the Cork hurlers.

Stakes are high for Cork and Tipp's showdown in Semple Stadium, warns John Considine

And even at that, the brief reference to Kieran Kingston’s men came from Shefflin who described them as a “team in building”.

The pair continued to chat all matters hurling for a further 10 minutes without anymore discussion on Kieran Kingston’s charges.

It prompted one listener from Bantry to text in asking, ‘what about Cork?’

Cork 1990 All-Ireland hero John Considine has been resident in West Cork for a number of years but jokes it wasn’t he who had his dander raised by Cork’s omission from Shefflin and Sheedy’s conversation.

“It is understandable why, at this stage, nobody is giving Cork a chance of winning an All-Ireland. They would have to come through five massive games. That would be a tall order for any team,” reasons the former Cork hurler.

The first of those “massive” games is Sunday’s Munster quarter-final with Tipperary. Considine won his one and only Munster medal at the expense of the Premier County in Semple Stadium in July of 1990. Almost 50,000 packed into Thurles that Sunday. He reckons they’ll do well to reach half that figure this weekend given this latest championship meeting between the two counties has failed to capture public imagination. Understandably so, in many respects.

“Cork haven’t generated a lot of enthusiasm this year, the Kilkenny league game aside. People remember also the Galway game last year,” Considine says.

“Tipperary, for the last 10 years, have been considered the second best team in the country so it is surprising they are not being rated [for All-Ireland honours]. Maybe they have disappointed people too much.” The apathy of the hurling public towards this fixture, aside, the UCC economics lecturer cites the clash as an “absolutely massive game” for both camps but for Cork, in particular.

“Like it or not, if Cork lose on Sunday the interpretation will be the win over Galway to avoid relegation papered over cracks from the earlier defeats and there will be no getting away from that. It is a huge game, not in the sense of trying to win Munster, but for each team individually and where they go this summer.

“You could nearly write it now what will happen if Cork are beaten, ‘we should have seen this coming, they lost all their league games, blah, blah, blah’. “If we win, the attitude will be, ‘it was better to get some things sorted during the league, even if it was two steps back, one step forward’.

“I would reckon the players and management on either side realise that this is a massive game, an absolutely huge game. Forget how many people turn up. This is a much bigger game than I believe the general public realise. It hasn’t captured the imagination because people don’t think Cork or Tipperary are going to win an All-Ireland. As a result, the game itself hasn’t got a huge profile. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a massive game. If you can get over Tipperary, suddenly then there will be a bit of confidence after coming in and then you have Limerick, which you go into with a win under your belt. Things will build if a win is got on Sunday.” He added: “Go back to last May. Had Cork won the league final, following on from winning the Munster the year before and reaching the All-Ireland the year before that, everything would have seen on the up. Within the space of four or five weeks, though, they were put onto the back foot. They lost the league final and then they lost the Munster semi-final. Suddenly, things started going a bit...

“The good stuff that had brought them to a league final and delivered them a Munster title the year previous was forgotten about. It is amazing how one defeat can put you on the back foot. Whichever team is beaten on Sunday, then they are on the back foot straightaway. You are waiting around. There is uncertainty. You are not looking forward in the same way you would be as if you had won.”

Earlier this week, former Tipperary boss Sheedy raised question marks over the strength of the Cork defence. Within said rearguard, of which there was very little experimentation this spring despite the fact they haemorrhaged, on average, 1-23 per game; 12 players held down the six defensive berths across Cork’s six games and from that, Colm Spillane, Stephen McDonnell (both injured) and Shane O’Neill (dropped) aren’t togging this weekend, while Aidan Walsh is expected to feature further up.

“They have given away a lot of scores, but I just wonder sometimes, there is an art to defending and that art doesn’t just involve those six backs. We talk about the Cork backs as a unit, but that should be from 15 back, not seven back. When Cork have done well defensively, it is because they have done well in terms of defending at the other end of the field. When they have done poorly, the problems have started there. When Cork are putting pressure on the opposition all over the field, they aren’t conceding as much. It is all very well to say the six backs should have dealt with a particular player, like Pat Donnellan marauding up the field in the 2013 All-Ireland, and I have no problem with that, but he should never have been allowed take off like he did. The Cork defence carry a lot of responsibility, but they get blamed too easily for stuff that could have been helped out elsewhere. As a unit from 15 back, the defending hasn’t been as good as it could be. I don’t think the backs can outsource the blame to anybody, but they could do with a bit of help.”

Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look at where it all went wrong for Roberto Martinez at Everton.

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