John Meyler has challenged Cork’s players to win the All-Ireland title that will ensure their team-mate Pat Horgan goes down in the annals of hurling history. Experienced Horgan overtook Christy Ring as Cork’s all-time leading Championship scorer in the summer of 2017 and has since claimed his second and third All-Star awards.
Meyler described the Glen Rovers man as ‘an artist’ and a ‘consummate professional’ but claimed that the 31-year-old doesn’t get the recognition generally that he deserves. Meyler said that Horgan, Galway’s Joe Canning and Kilkenny’s TJ Reid have been the best three forwards from the last decade though noted that Horgan is still chasing his All-Ireland dream.
Horgan showcased his immense talent yet again last Sunday when he struck 1-9 in the Munster champions’ big win over All-Ireland holders Limerick. Asked if he’s the best current player without an All-Ireland medal, Meyler responded:
You’re putting me on the spot now but he’s certainly... he’s owed an All-Ireland medal, he’s owed an All-Ireland medal and we have to work an awful lot harder in the upcoming games to deliver that to him because he deserves one.
“I think he’s just an artist, so skillful, what he does with the ball. I’ve never worked with TJ Reid or Joe Canning but you look at those players, they make it look so simple that you say, ‘That’s easy’. But go try and do it! He (Horgan) scored a point against Tipperary with no space around himself whatsoever.
“And the way he took the ball down for the goal last Sunday against Limerick, lost two players, just turned, he was in, goal! Looks easy, looks simple. Why? Because he’s such an artist.”
Horgan came close to etching his name in history in 2013 when he put Cork ahead late on in the drawn All-Ireland final against Clare, only for Domhnall O’Donovan to snatch a last gasp equaliser.
Clare won the replay and both Cork and Horgan have been chasing the MacCarthy Cup ever since. Meyler said he doesn’t need any convincing at this stage about Horgan’s value to the team.
“If you stand back and look at Patrick Horgan and see what he does in games, he is incredible, there is absolutely no doubt about that,” said the former Wexford, Kerry and Carlow manager.
“He is a superb hurler. Frees, from play, the skill, his attention to detail, first at training, the way he carries himself, on and off the pitch, it’s superb. Joe Canning is the same. TJ Reid is the same. It’s just that Hoggy needs an All-Ireland medal to convince people but then again if you’ve still to be convinced about Horgan then I don’t know.”
Meyler noted that it wasn’t just Horgan that delivered during the seven-point win over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds but the entire team.
He said that while Tipperary were sharp, hungry and ‘up for it’ when they played Cork in Round 1, it was the Munster holders that showed the greater intensity a week later.
“We all needed to look within ourselves and to see ‘What could I have done?’” said Meyler.
Our attitude needed to change but above all our work rate and performance needed to be improved and I think everyone saw that and that we had let ourselves down badly.
"But we have moved on from that and the Limerick game, now what’s key is that we deliver the same performance and better again against Waterford.”
Meyler said Conor Lehane should be fit despite his injury against Limerick. Meanwhile, Meyler reckons rugby legend Doug Howlett is going to play a crucial role in Cork training over the next couple of weeks. Howlett has confirmed that after 11 years with Munster Rugby he will leave in the autumn to return to his native New Zealand.
He is the province’s head of commercial and marketing but has also been part of Meyler’s Cork hurling backroom team this year. Meyler said that ex-Munster captain Howlett ‘wants to bring up his children in New Zealand but is staying with us for the Championship’.
Asked if Howlett played a big role last week lifting the team for the Limerick game, Meyler said: “I think he will have a bigger role next week as distinct from last week, to maintain the level of performance which we gave against Limerick. That’s where you are setting the bar and you really want to drive on from that and build on that.
“You can’t have a see-saw reaction, you have to maintain the level of performance. If you look at Dublin (football) over the last four or five years they have epitomised that, Kilkenny and Cody over the last 20 years too.
“No matter how bad they are, they still perform at a high level and when they are good they are really, really good. We cannot let that bar drop now, we cannot go below that. That’s critical.”
Anthony Daly, Ger Cunningham and TJ Ryan review the weekend's hurling.