John Meyler: ‘Cork need to be at the top table every time there is an All-Ireland given out’

John Meyler spoke with Eoghan Cormican ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final clash with Limerick.

John Meyler: ‘Cork need to be at the top table every time there is an All-Ireland given out’

John Meyler spoke with Eoghan Cormican ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final clash with Limerick.

Q: You were present in Thurles, what was your impression of a Limerick forward unit which hit 0-17 from play?

A: Limerick put up 24 points from play, that’s the sign of a good team. Kilkenny also had a lot of wides, which is very unusual for a Kilkenny team. So we need to look at that. We need to focus on stopping Limerick scoring from play. Their half-forward line scored 10 points from play, which is a super return.

Midfield and their half-back line chipped in five points, so their scores are coming from different areas. But if you check our scores over the Munster Championship, we’re varied as well. They’re not coming from one player, in particular, it’s spread out, which is a good thing.

Q: How strong is the want in the panel to atone for last year’s defeat at this hurdle?

A: Semi-finals are there to win to get into an All-Ireland final. That’s where every young fella, every manager, every team wants to be. That’s the Holy Grail. You don’t want to lose semi-finals because you are only just a bridesmaid then.

We want to win that semi-final on Sunday and I know Limerick will want to win it as well.

You could see the passion and the fire coming out of the Limerick people in the stands in Thurles. They have a hunger within them. It’s ‘73 since Limerick won an All-Ireland final, that’s 45 years waiting for an All-Ireland, so they are going to be hungry.

Q: How do you match Limerick’s 45 years of hurt?

A: We have got to match their hunger, their attitude, their work-rate. As a player, I probably wasn’t the most gifted hurler, but I probably had the highest work-rate of anybody. Where you have individual talent and brilliance, you also need work-rate. I said on day one when I came in [as Cork manager], we have the skill, we have the speed, we have the ability but our work-rate is lacking. That’s not just running back, hooking and blocking, it’s a whole mental attitude, it’s a physical attitude. Definitely, our work-rate has gone up this year and I’m pleased with that.

Q: Does Cork’s 13-year wait for an All-Ireland hurling crown weigh heavily on the players’ shoulders?

A: No, no, it’s a motivation that should drive you on to narrow that gap. Because this time next year, we’re a year older. I’m a year older, Nash is a year older, Coleman is a year older, so when you get to semi-finals or when you get to finals, you need to win them because it may not happen again. The longer it goes on, sometimes, the harder it becomes, but when you have that opportunity you need to take that opportunity. Cork need to get back where they were in 04-05, winning All-Irelands and being at the top table every time there is an All-Ireland given out. That’s really it.

Q: Did the surprise which greeted Kieran Kingston stepping down last September increase the pressure on you coming in as his successor?

A: I’ve been involved with inter-county teams since ‘93 – what, 25 years. So the pressure is not on me, it’s on all of us. I’ve said it before, it’s not about me. It’s about the management team. I have a fantastic group around me whom I trust. They do their job religiously. They have full empowerment, full authority to do what they have to do and make sure everything is right and make sure we win. They are critical to the whole success of it.

When you’re winning, it’s very enjoyable. They won’t be long kicking you in the arse if you’re losing, though.

Q: Was it more difficult to come in as manager given how 2017 went?

A: I wanted to win everything. When I started off, we lost our first three games in the Munster senior league. People were saying, ‘what are we doing’. I tried to find new players. Because I knew from last year we had 15, 16, 17 players who were up to All-Ireland Championship.

We said we’d go about trying to find two, three, four new players. Try to blood them. We lost Stephen McDonnell — he opted out of the panel — and Alan Cadogan got injured.

But we had faith in Sean O’Donoghue, Robbie O’Flynn, and those guys who matured. Colm Spillane is now two years back after a cruciate so he has really matured as a leader.

Then we beat Kilkenny in the league and everyone is saying, ‘God, Cork are on a roll’. Then we lost our next four league matches. Got over Waterford in the relegation final and people are saying, ‘My God, what are we doing?’

Q: Ever doubt yourself after any of those early season defeats?

A: No. Because we knew exactly what we were trying to do — blood more players for the Championship. Playing four Sundays in a row or five Sundays in six weeks, we knew we had to have an extended panel.

Even in the quarter-final, you see the massive contribution Shane Dowling and Peter Casey made against Kilkenny. Richie Leahy came in for Kilkenny and got four points.

We’ve had fellas come off the bench and make a contribution.

Q: Are Cork, in your opinion, close to a 70-minute performance?

A: I hope we are. That’s where we need to go. We performed in the first half against Tipp, the second half against Clare. What you’re trying to do is match the two up, get a synergy out of those. To be more consistent when you do go out of the game, which you will at times, to not lose three, four, five, six points in that period. To be consistently more consistent.

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