When the Cork and Dublin squads parked their coaches on the side of the Boreenmanna Road on Saturday evening they did it on the back of a week’s preparations that would make coaches and managers in other sporting codes shake with rage and impotence.
Eleven of Kieran Kingston’s Cork players had their minds turned towards Freshers and Fitzgibbon Cup hurling for a large chunk of the seven days - four are back out again today.
Ten of Ger Cunningham’s Dubs were fulfilling more or less the same duties up to and including Wednesday.
What is a manager to do?
Very little, you would imagine. A week is nothing in team sports and it shouldn’t be anywhere near enough to bring about the sort of swing in fortunes experienced by these two counties on Saturday evening when all preconceived notions were chucked out the window.
Here again was proof there is no such concept as form in February.
Cork were close to abysmal on the back of a deeply impressive league opener at home to Clare while a much-changed Dublin proved to be unrecognisable from the side that submitted meekly to a heavy stuffing at the hands of Tipperary in HQ that same evening.
Mindset was the word Cunningham reached for. Kingston landed on appetite.
Same thing, really.
“We’re obviously very disappointed,” said the Cork boss.
“This was always going to be a tough game for us. Dublin were always going to rebound from the Tipperary game and we had spoken about that during the week. They were very hungry out there and we couldn’t match it.”
Cork were horsed out of it in midfield and their half- forward line endured a long evening against a Dublin line superbly marshalled by Liam Rushe at centre-half back. Their full-back department’s exposure under the high ball cost them a goal and a fair few grey hairs besides.
All of that is much more worrying than the plethora of scores conceded when Cork attempted to play the ball out of their defensive zone with short passes. Anthony Nash, for instance, shouldn’t cough up anywhere near that many points from his own puckouts again any time soon.
“I keep saying this: we have to keep it in context,” said Kingston.
“This is a process that we are in. We are not as bad as we showed here and we are not as good as we showed last Saturday against Clare. There was too much written about us after Clare and there may be the same after this.
“We are somewhere in between and we know we have a huge amount of work to do.”
There is truth in all that. Ifs and buts hold no weight on a league table but Cork can look back on Saturday’s encounter and wonder how different it might have been had Patrick Horgan not fluffed a glorious goal chance in the opening exchanges or skewed a quartet of eminently scoreable frees wide.
They could ponder the turn of events had Nash and his defenders not had a number of attempted passes intercepted and returned over the black spot or how close the scoreboard could have been had Ryan O’Dwyer’s goal not dribbled over the line in the 17th minute.
That three-pointer was the harbinger of a spell that would turn the game on its head after a decent opening for the hosts. In all, Dublin pounced for 1-8 in a 15-minute first-half spell, made all the more profitable for the fact Cork were kept scoreless throughout.
“We created a lot of goal chances as well and we didn’t take them,” said Kingston.
“We had two alone in the first three or four minutes and we were dominating the game. Then we conceded a few handy scores.
“We got back into the game by half-time and we thought then that we were in a good place and then we conceded a sloppy goal again. We were struggling after that then.”
That the game was still finely balanced at the interval, with Dublin only four points up, was down in large part to Douglas attacker Shane Kingston who emerged from the evening shadows to claim 1-2 before the interval, but it was the young guns in blue who really shone.
Eoghan O’Donnell is 20 going on 35 such is his maturity at full-back, while Donal Burke was the game’s outstanding contributor at the far end with eight points landed, three of them from play, as well as an assist for their second goal scored by another impressive youngster Eoghan Conroy.
It could have been even better for Burke who had a penalty saved by Nash during that dominant first-half spell but Dublin’s only other real cause for regret was the harsh second yellow card that did for Chris Crummy’s evening after 56 minutes.
Cork have far more to mull over before round three.
P Horgan (0-6, 5 frees); S Kingston (1-2); M Coleman (0-2, 1 free, 1 ‘65’); L Meade (0-2); A Cadogan, C Lehane (both 0-1).
D Burke (0-8, 4 frees, 1 ‘65’); E Conroy (1-2); R O’Dwyer (1-1); R McBride (0-2); C Crummy, E Dillon, C Conway, F McGibb, E Conroy and C Bennett (all 0-1).
A Nash; K Burke, D Griffin, C Spillane; C Joyce, M Ellis, M Coleman; B Cooper, D Kearney; L Meade, S Kingston, D Fitzgibbon; A Cadogan, P Horgan, S Harnedy.
D Cahalane for Spillane (25); S McDonnell for Griffin (HT); C Lehane for Fitzgibbon (45); P Haughney for Kearney (50); C O’Sullivan for O’Dwyer (62).
C Dooley; J Madden, E O’Donnell, S Barrett; B Quinn, L Rushe, C Crummy; C Conway, N McMorrow; E Conroy, R McBride, E Dillon; F McGibb, R O’Dwyer, D Burke.
C Bennett for Quinn (49); C MacGabhann for Conway (59); F Whitely for Dillon (69); D Fox for Burke (73).
S Cleere (Kilkenny).