CORK 2-26 DUBLIN 0-24
This feels all sorts of new for Cork.
Not just because of the goals or that they are in line to start with just seven of the team that began the 2019 All-Ireland quarter-final against Kilkenny when the counties renew acquaintances this Sunday.
No, it’s how they will arrive in Croke Park. Two years ago, they came in on the back of a cakewalk against Westmeath in Mullingar. Here, their head of steam is far more credible after dismissing Clare and Dublin. It certainly appears to have more substance than their previous two All-Ireland semi-final appearances when all the momentum they had generated in becoming Munster champions was lost in the weeks waiting to play in Croke Park.
Kilkenny are rested and have had time to heal any battle scars but a Cork team believing in itself and a following just as convinced about them is a stronger trump card. Jack O’Connor has enjoyed himself in Limerick and Thurles these past two Saturdays. In Croke Park, his speed will be even more of an asset.
It will be a semi-final for the not-yet-cooked. Even after defending a Leinster title, Brian Cody was as mindful as Kieran Kingston has been not to place too much expectation on his young charges. On Saturday, the Cork manager realised that when his team’s 2-13 to 0-11 half-time lead gave his tyros a false sense of security and he acknowledged complacency set in.
Commenting on how Cork lost the third quarter by a point, he said: “When you’re evolving as a group, they will make mistakes when they are in the ascendancy or when the scoreboard is with you. We took on some shots that weren’t on, we were taking potshots from out the field that really weren’t on and all you’re doing is giving possession back to the opposition and that’s something we didn’t do in the first half, we didn’t do coming down the stretch but we did it in that third quarter, which is a bit of a lack of experience.”
These dips after half-time are slightly troubling but credit to Cork, even when Dublin cut the margin from seven to four points they were unruffled, they were able to push away as they did after Clare had rallied.
By no means was their third quarter as poor as it was against Clare — here they only lost it by a point and the sense of inevitability about their victory never diminished. Seamus Harnedy was a commanding figure in the first half and his industry was just as evident in the second although as he wasn’t scoring as much.
It’s been some time since the former Cork captain was spraying ball around and taking on shots with confidence. “Seamus is getting a run,” remarked Kingston. “He’s been very unlucky the last couple of years with not getting a run in training. And it was the same at the start of the year but the last four or five weeks he has had a consistent run of training. You can see it in his play on the field.”
Not that Kingston regretted the score in the slightest but he was disappointed with how Cork reacted to his son Shane’s goal just before the interval. The manager felt Cork sat back having had the half-time break to wallow in their eight-point lead.
On the other hand, Dublin boss Mattie Kenny said the score couldn’t have come at a worse time. After having two goal chances in the opening four minutes, they were sticking with Cork and recovered reasonably well after Tim O’Mahony’s 18th-minute goal but Kingston’s one, a reaction to a Robbie O’Flynn squared ball that was cut out poorly, rocked them.
“Looking back on it, the goal we conceded right on the stroke of half-time, I think that was the most costly one. It was a four or five-point game, Cork were playing with a slight breeze, and I felt then we were going into the scoring end in the second half. Going in four or five down would have given us a right chance, but that goal set us back a bit.
“In fairness to our guys, and we’re so proud of the way they came out in the second half. Cork tails were up, but our lads dug in, they got themselves back into the game and got it back to four points. A little decision maybe went against us at that stage, that allowed Cork to settle the ship. As the game was going on, I felt we needed a goal in that final quarter. We didn’t create a good goalscoring opportunity, and that’s what we needed.”
Barring small injuries to the likes of Luke Meade and Conor Cahalane getting in the way, you can’t imagine Kingston changing his team to face Kilkenny. A replacement for Alan Cadogan in Semple Stadium, Cahalane’s work-rate was unquestionable.
“He put in a huge shift. Conor ran himself into the ground and we had to put him into the full-forward line because he cramped up. Massive honesty of effort and that’s what we’re looking for. Trying to build a bit of character in the lads.”
Striding forward as he did for his goal, O’Mahony showed plenty of that and looks to have found his home at wing-back.“Tim is a different type of player in that he’s an attacking half-back and he gives us a good launchpad there,” lauded Kingston. “He’s a very good defender, he’s good in the air but he’s a very good attacker as well and can come on the loop.
“It’s important that when that happens you have a system that you filter back to ensure you’re not leaving a hole behind you. It’s a seesaw effect and we have lads there in the middle of the field who are working to that and it gives them a bit of freedom to get forward.”
Unfancied as they will be this Sunday but oozing confidence, there will be plenty of freedom about Cork’s approach.
Niall O’Leary’s foray up the field to score an insurance score in additional time to ease any concerns Cork may have had when their lead shrank to four points following a hat-trick of Dublin scores.
Cork’s transformation into goal-getters is eyecatching. Shane Kingston has now scored three goals this summer, one in each of Cork’s championship outings.
On the crest of a wave, Cork will arrive in Croke Park next weekend. It’s the sort of belief they’d love to bottle. Kilkenny have consolidated their growing status with a second successive Leinster title but the wind propelling Cork right now is a strong one.
Chris Crummey is a super player but 2022 may be the season to return him to defence where he is more composed.
Kieran Kingston mentioned how three players were struggling with cramp and “niggly injuries” by the end. Conor Cahalane and Luke Meade, the latter who was replaced, were two of those. As the Cork manager said, recovery is key this week.
Cork gleaned plenty from their puck-outs in the opening half and third quarter and it must be as potent a weapon if they are to defeat Kilkenny.
BEST ON SHOW:
Tim O’Mahony was the official man of the match and with good reason but our choice was Seamus Harnedy given his influence in giving Cork what proved an insurmountable lead. The Cork full-back line again impressed while Luke Meade was excellent in midfield. Donal Burke was Dublin’s best performer.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE:
After the sin bin controversy earlier in the summer, James Owens showed why he remains one of the best in the business. A hell of a lot more frees given than in the day’s earlier quarter-final but the vast majority were justified.
A first All-Ireland SHC semi-final in three years for Cork in Croke Park on Sunday. It will be their first SHC meeting against Kilkenny since the 2019 All-Ireland quarter-final loss.
Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan (0-12, 8 frees, 1 65); T. O’Mahony (1-1); S. Kingston (1-0); S. Harnedy (0-4); J. O’Connor (0-3); R. O’Flynn (0-2); C. Cahalane, S. Barrett, N. O’Leary, A. Connolly (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: D. Burke (0-13, 7 frees, 1 65); C. O’Sullivan (0-3); C. Burke, D. Sutcliffe (0-2 each); L. Rushe. C. Boland, R. McBride, J. Malone (0-1 each).
CORK: P. Collins; N. O’Leary, R. Downey, S. O’Donoghue; G. Millerick, M. Coleman, T. O’Mahony; D. Fitzgibbon, L. Meade; S. Harnedy, C. Cahalane, R. O’Flynn; P. Horgan (c), S. Kingston, J. O’Connor.
Subs: S. Barrett for S. Kingston (48); S. O’Leary-Hayes for S. O’Donoghue (58); A. Connolly for R. O’Flynn (60); B. Hennessy for L. Meade (inj 63); C. Spillane for N. O’Leary (70+3).
DUBLIN: A. Nolan; A. Dunphy, P. Smyth, C. O’Callaghan; D. Gray, L. Rushe, J. Madden; R. McBride, C. Burke; D. Burke, C. Crummey, D. Sutcliffe (c); C. Boland, R. Hayes, C. O’Sullivan.
Subs: J. Malone for C. O’Callaghan (49); D. Keogh for C. O’Sullivan (52); O. O’Rorke for C. Boland (63); P. Crummey for R. Hayes (69).
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).