Nobody’s fooling themselves about where Cork hurling stands anymore.
However, it’s still the biggest day on the calendar in these parts and the romance is still there, especially with the Glen involved. And for every neutral watching on, there is that pang of envy, an innate wish that it was your club that was there.
As an advertisement for Cork hurling, this year’s county final wasn’t a bad one. Everything was ready; a beautiful day, intimate stadium and a big crowd waiting for something to happen.
On the field everything played out as as it should have. The Glen were that bit better throughout and their inter-county players looked, well they looked like inter-county players. Stephen McDonnell was generally tidy around the square while Patrick Horgan showed his class when it mattered most.
Former stars showed too that they still had plenty to offer with Graham Callanan acting as his team’s driving force while Shane Murphy anchored Erin’s Own defence as efficiently as he always does. There was also a glimpse of potential future stars. Dean Brosnan was immense across the 60 minutes while Robbie O’Flynn excited the crowd every time he was in possession.
But as the Stone Roses’ Ian Brown said, “it’s not about where you’re from, it’s about where you’re at.”
So where is Cork hurling at?
Well, in a way the final was a microcosm of where hurling in Cork is. There were times in the first-half where it was frustrating, slow, flat and lifeless. Any time the game threatened to take off something happened to stem the flow.
Erin’s Own couldn’t get going and James O’Flynn’s goal along with Glen Rovers’ wastefulness just about prevented the game from petering out into a damp squib.
The pitch didn’t help but it’s a wonder Páirc Uí Rinn isn’t in much worse condition considering the punishment it takes. There was a constant niggle bubbling away under the surface too and this contributed to the stop/start nature of the game.
The second-half was much better and showed what Cork hurling can be like at it’s best. It was physical, fast and intense as both teams raised their games and the crowd found their voice. The Erin’s Own backs were excellent and Mossy O’Carroll’s fine goal blasted the game wide open.
The signs of a good team can often be seen in times of adversity. It’s a testament to the Glen they played their best hurling of the day after going two points down with 10 minutes remaining.
Brian Moylan and Graham Callanan thundered into it, Brosnan took over at midfield while Patrick Horgan grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Any conversation about Cork hurling will always have Horgan central to it. There’s something enigmatic about him. His talent is outrageous but sometimes the game can pass him by. This one didn’t. After missing a difficult free to level it, he just took over.
He worked tirelessly, scored from play, was fouled for frees and won the game for the Glen. There was a steely resilience to his performance that made you believe — or hope — that there’s more to come.
And that’s the case with Cork hurling. It’s not in the best place right now, but there’s always the hope that there’s more to come. Sunday wasn’t a game for the ages but then again finals rarely are. Now that the Glen have retained the title, it would be nice to see them push on further in the Munster Club championship. Then we might hope some more.
There was nothing there yesterday that suggested Cork would be rocketing up the inter-county standings come next year. But there was nothing there either that suggested Cork has fallen out of love with hurling. The game offered glimpses of potential for improvement. There were over 11,000 people there, however. Young, old, casual supporters, diehards, all sorts. There was a real sense of occasion and they were all there waiting for something to happen. The interest in the game is still very strong here.
They all went in looking for reasons to be cheerful. They may even have found one, two or three. But not enough to make them really believe that they won’t be waiting for that something to happen for a bit longer yet.