Talking points from the weekend's GAA action.
Cork rebuilding in Munster… or are they?
So we may have a proper Munster football final on June 22 after all. Or will we?
Cork football supporters are so punch-drunk from a succession of haymakers that no-one in the county is quite sure whether to re-engage or remain apathetic and stay at a safe distance.
Ronan McCarthy is aware of the supporters’ dilemma.
On these pages in 2017, he urged the Cork side heading to Killarney to, at the very least, make it worth the petrol money for the Rebel Army.
After Saturday’s impressive victory over an admittedly lame Limerick, the Cork manager again referred to the expectations of Cork’s loyal band of followers.
“We need battlers,” he said, “who will fight for every ball. That’s all we ask, that’s all the public ask too — that every guy gives his all. I think we are building a group of people who will do that.”
Time will tell. Confidence is building, but it’s fragile.
Attitude and approach might be more important.
It’s been pointed out the Rebels could lose the provincial final and still be only one win from the Super 8.
In fact, they have two shots at qualification for the All-Ireland series — they could always go through straight as provincial champions.
It’s unlikely, but it has to be the mindset.
What happened to home comforts?
After home advantage meant so much last summer, this year it’s becoming somewhat irrelevant.
In Leinster and Munster yesterday, there were three road wins from three to add to the four already in the ledger.
Consider then that Wexford have taken a point from Dublin and Galway and it works out that there have been just three home victories from the 12 matches thus far — Tipperary over Waterford, Kilkenny over Dublin and Galway against Carlow.
Yesterday, Cusack Park became the last bastion to fall in the new Munster SHC format.
That the competition has produced just one home win from six matches will ensure All-Ireland champions Limerick don’t take Clare lightly on the Ennis Road next Sunday.
Scope yet for a Leinster four-way
Dublin manager Mattie Kenny spoke of how Dublin have their destiny in their own hands after their Leinster SHC win over Carlow.
It’s true that it’s hard to imagine they won’t secure a top-three place, and All-Ireland series hurling, if they beat Galway in their final group game on Saturday week at Parnell Park.
But there is a sequence of results that could yet see Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, and Wexford all finish level on five points, meaning someone would miss out on a top-three place on scoring difference.
For that situation to occur we’d need Galway to beat Kilkenny next weekend, Wexford to beat Carlow, Wexford to draw with Kilkenny and Dublin to beat Galway.
Probably about as long a shot as Carlow beating Wexford in their final game and results elsewhere going their way to lift them off the bottom spot.
The more likely outcome is that Carlow will slip to their fourth defeat in four games and make a speedy return back to the McDonagh Cup.
Limerick travel in numbers
Landing into The Granary on Waterford’s quays yesterday morning for a swift brunch, one thing was immediately noticeable: the number of Limerick people on hand.
The Waterford train station is right on the quays and the steady stream of green and white-clad day-trippers coming across the bridge and into the city was the first indication that the All-Ireland champions wouldn’t be outnumbered significantly in Walsh Park.
Apart from the slight delay in your reporter getting his sausage bap, their presence — literally in their thousands — tilted the home-field scenario significantly.
In a keenly contested minor game the Limerick support was vocal, and that continued in the senior game.
In that encounter their influence was seen in the mini-theatre of Aaron Gillane’s free-taking, for instance.
The home support weren’t fond of Gillane taking every second he could in his approach, and were vocal about it, and the support in green and white weren’t long in asserting Gillane’s human rights in response.
Granted, the game went the visitors’ way, but they showed a keen eye when offering a standing ovation to Gearoid Hegarty on his substitution.
They recognised a man who’d left it all out on the field and responded warmly to the big wing-forward before preparing themselves for the long journey home.
Fortune favours the brave
There can be no doubt the team trying to claw back a lead are helped along by the leaders beginning to over-indulge in an effort to wind down the clock.
It happened in St Tiernach’s Park with Armagh trying to kill off the game with two minutes of extra-time left.
But Cavan pushed up, won a turnover and it left Mackey close enough to pull the trigger.
“It seemed that at times they were pushing further back the field and tired bodies at that stage…” began Cavan manager Mickey Graham.
“Tired minds, mistakes are made, when the pressure comes on lads don’t want to get on the ball because maybe they don’t have the energy levels.
“Some days it works for you and others it doesn’t and thankfully we got the turnovers at the right time.”
Armagh assistant manager Jim McCorry agreed: “There’d be a wee bit of self-criticism for ourselves in terms of our game management towards the end with turnover ball inside our own 50 that allowed them to get the equalising score.”
Sometimes, fortune really does favour the brave.
Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly