Patrick Horgan can’t wait to return Cork ‘to right road’

Mastering the skills of hurling has never been a problem for Pat Horgan, or Cork teams for that matter.
Patrick Horgan can’t wait to return Cork ‘to right road’
Patrick Horgan at Abbotstown earlier this month. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Patrick Horgan at Abbotstown earlier this month. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Mastering the skills of hurling has never been a problem for Pat Horgan, or Cork teams for that matter.

A three-in-a-row All-Star, one of Horgan’s recent social media challenges, which he demonstrated to perfection, was keeping the ball off the ground for 30 seconds using only the bás of the hurl and the handle, flicking back and forth.

Another of his challenges which entertained, and frustrated, hurlers in equal measure was a 30-second game of keepie uppie, bouncing the sliotar off the narrow heel of the hurley.

Whenever competitive action resumes, Horgan will transfer those skills back to the pitch though the reality, which he acknowledges, is that it’s not Cork’s skills that have let them down on the biggest days in recent years but their guile and cunning.

Ahead at some stage of the second-half against Waterford and Limerick in the 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland semi-finals, and against Kilkenny in the 2019 quarter-final, they lost each day.

Inevitably, it’s led to questions about nerve and character and while Horgan rejects those claims he realises they didn’t exactly stick it to their critics during a brief Allianz League campaign that yielded two wins and three defeats.

“No, we didn’t get a chance to answer them either, with the weather and all that,” said Horgan.

“The most pleasing two games we had in the league were against Tipp and Limerick, two home games.

“We managed to get a win against Tipp, I know they were only coming back from holidays but still they’re a good side, always competitive.

“And Limerick, it was nip and tuck with them until one decision went against us. That was it, game over. Overall, we competed well in that game. They’re the only two we can go off, when there wasn’t a storm or some bad weather conditions.”

Whilst a number of Division 1 teams had their campaigns cut short by the Covid-19 shutdown, Cork’s campaign had already concluded.

After just five games. They began with another narrow defeat, in Waterford, and whilst they bounced back with that morale-boosting win over Tipp, they were unconvincing in the four-point win over Westmeath before losing to Limerick and Galway.

Throw in the awful weather at times that Horgan alluded to and it’s difficult to know what exactly they gleaned from their spring activity, aside from getting Kieran Kingston’s second coming underway.

What’s certain is that their critics are still there, questioning their guts and character.

“We know it’s not about that either,” countered Horgan. “It’s about making one, two plays a game, near the end. That’s all.

“You don’t have to do anything supernatural. Just do your own job or if the ball is presented to you, do the right thing at the right time.

“At the end of the game then, people say that one play (won it for Cork), it’s ‘Oh, the whole team showed a lot of heart’ or whatever, but it’s probably just that one play, working it correctly.

“If you look back on any of the games that we didn’t finish out, there was probably six or seven things we could have prevented, doing any one of those six or seven things differently would have put a whole different look on the game.

“Going as far back as the All-Ireland final in ‘13, the one we lost, there were countless things that if we just nipped any of them once in the whole sequence of plays, we would have won the game.”

Horgan, the current top scorer in the league with 3-49 from five games, agreed that digging in and winning close encounters is ultimately what they’ve got to master to win the really big prizes.

“That’s something we’ve put a bit of emphasis on, to finish out games. We’re really competitive with anyone, it’s finishing off games we have to look into. And we will. We’ll try to straighten it out.”

His comments chime with the admission of team-mate Darragh Fitzgibbon back in December that “our talent will never be questioned but our work-rate and our attitude probably would raise a few question marks”.

Yet Horgan shook his head at criticism which has come their way about being a flaky team that lacks the will to go to the wire in season-defining games. Rather, the Glen Rovers icon indicated it’s about being more mature when those games are in the melting pot, about drawing on all their experience, and simply making better decisions.

“A lot of it is down to being, I wouldn’t say unlucky because it must be very bad luck to be always happening, but just a case of if the ball breaks to you in that critical time where your team just needs to make one play, then make the play,” he said. “Whether that’s a hook, or a block, whether as a back or a forward, just make that one play to get back on the right road.”

- Pat Horgan was speaking at the announcement Sky Sports will this year visit Clare, Louth, Longford, and Roscommon with a special focus on health and well-being as part of its grassroots partnership on GAA Super Games. The visits will be documented by Sky Sports for a new midweek GAA show called Inside the Game and will also feature on Sky’s Sports’ social channels.

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