Ger Cunningham believes it’s harsh to describe the Cork hurlers as ‘flaky’, but accepts the current crop have failed to deliver when it has been put up to them.
And while Cork have fallen back on ‘what-ifs’ over the past two seasons, the three-time All-Ireland winner says there can be “no excuses” for Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Kilkenny.
In Monday’s Irish Examiner, Anthony Daly wrote: “I said it here on Saturday that Cork are the flakiest team in the country. Yesterday offered the firmest proof yet that there is something seriously missing in this group.”
Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Championship Podcast, Cunningham said: “I suppose maybe Cork gave him an opportunity to say that.
“By flaky, I suppose he means that these guys have been tested before, been under the cosh, been under pressure when it’s put up to them and they have failed to deliver. That would be my take on what Dalo is trying to say.
“I think it’s harsh. It’s easy to throw out. But we haven’t got over the line. We’ve been in three semi-finals since 2014 and we haven’t got over the line. That’s very disappointing and you have to look at it and say a lot of the same players are the same.
“Is it time to look around to see if there are other players? But that’s easier said than done. If you were to look at the club matches, the best players are in that squad. But that mental side of the game is so important and when it has come down to it we haven’t got over the line. It’s probably an area that needs to be looked at more closely going forward.
“The last two years we’ve had excuses. You go back to the semi-final with Waterford in 2017, we had the excuse that Damien (Cahalane) was sent off.
“Last year, you had Nickie Quaid’s save (from Seamus Harnedy), an excuse again. And it maybe masks a situation.
“When you really analyse it, in the cold light of day, they’ve no excuse on Sunday. They had chances earlier in the game to put up a score and have Kilkenny chase you.”
Cunningham questioned the decision to omit Shane Kingston from the start against Kilkenny after the Douglas forward shone in the facile victory over Westmeath.
“They went up to Westmeath and got a huge score, Shane Kingston got five points. It’s easy to say after a defeat, but I would question the need to change it. They put Kingston back onto the subs and expect him to come on and turn a game with 15 minutes to go. That’s a difficult scenario.”
Cunningham echoes Cork boss John Meyer’s view that hurling on Leeside is in good shape, with the U20s back in a Munster final, following last year’s All-Ireland U21 final defeat.
“There’s no root and branch reform. The top four or five teams are very competitive. It can go either way on a given day.
“There is a crop of guys coming through that look like they have the potential to step forward. The question is when they can step up, will they be given the chance, are they ready to take the chance? It’s a case of trying to mix that group with the group that is there.”
And the Barrs' legend also paid tribute to the effort in defeat by Patrick Horgan, who contributed 3-10 of Cork’s 3-18.
“Hoggy’s performance was incredible. You look over the years at guys who have given a performance when on the beaten side. You think of Seamus Callanan in 2015 against Galway, scoring 3-9. Joe Canning in his first year against Sully in Thurles, getting 2-12. Hoggy is such a talisman for Cork."