TJ Ryan: One Cork and two old City foes set to serve up a cracker

The two best teams are definitely in the final. I’d say you could have a classic in store in a few weeks.
TJ Ryan: One Cork and two old City foes set to serve up a cracker

CITY SLICKERS: Tadhg Deasy of Blackrock under pressure from James O'Carroll of Erin's Own. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

As I settled into my seat in the press box in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, I noticed a sign behind one of the goals promoting the ‘One Cork’ ethos, which amalgamates all of the existing organisations within Cork with the aim of improving their hurling and football teams across the county.

I fully understood the purpose of the initiative but I saw it as the ideal chance to hop the ball high and hard at Mark Landers sitting alongside me. “Is that a reminder for all of us,” I said to the bould Markeen “that every time we come in here, we have to say, ‘There’s only one Cork!’” 

The fact that two of the three city powerhouses are back in the final again, and that the ‘little All-Ireland’ is on once more feeds into all of that stuff. There was a city final two years ago between the Glen and the Rockies, but the fact that the Barrs are involved in a final for the first time in 29 years just adds to the whole aura around Cork hurling.

The outcome of both games was largely as expected. Both sides were favourites. Both teams have class sets of forwards, loaded with guys who can score from play, which a lot of club teams just don’t have.

Cork will always have those types of players but I also think Cork club hurling has changed in some form. I think the players are physically stronger now and loaded with more big men, especially Blackrock and St Finbarr’s.

The two games weren’t overly physical, even if there was more intensity in the first game, which lent itself to the vintage Cork attacking style, with loads of classy stickmen going to town in huge tracts of space. That kind of stuff always exposes defenders and some of the defensive play was questionable, which has been a key issue for the Cork seniors for years.

Nobody will know that better than Pat Ryan and I’m sure he has guys in mind who he feels can step up and muscle their way into his top 26. Some of those younger players will need more time but Ethan Twomey, Ben O’Connor and Ben Cunningham are class hurlers who will play for Cork. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Some of those younger players on show yesterday are massive men, which is also what Cork have lacked. Brian Hayes, who finished with 1-4, is another huge man but I’m not sure if Pat Ryan would be able to sway him from the Cork footballers.

Both sides put up huge scores. Blackrock play with two up top most of the time but they alternated and Erin’s Own couldn’t get a handle on them. Alan Connolly, Robbie Cotter and Tadgh Deasy finished with 2-13 from play, which is going to win any game.

Once Blackrock got to grips with Erin’s Own, their use of the ball was better. They just had more firepower but I still thought Erin’s Own were a little naïve at times in the way they followed their men out the field, which allowed Blackrock to get that real quality ball inside in front of Connolly and Cotter. Blackrock raised three green flags but they had seven goalscoring chances. Erin’s Own never had that kind of a threat.

The winners had plenty to spare for a finish but all four teams were well prepared, and all were trying to do the right thing with the ball. The Rockies and the Barrs were just that bit slicker, but they were also younger and more athletic.

It was great to see Kieran ‘Hero’ Murphy, Conor Naughton and Jamie Coughlan on show and still performing at a high level but it’s hard to sustain that pace when you’re coming up against younger greyhounds on a pristine pitch.

Erin’s Own have had a brilliant season considering how many guys they have on the team over 30, with some of them closer to 40. Newtown may not have the same mileage on the clocks but they just ran out of road against a better side.

It was a shame for Newtown to lose so heavily and end with 13 men. I thought Conor Twomey was unlucky. It was a high challenge but I don’t think there was the intent that Colm Lyons felt there was. Twomey was unlucky with his timing and I didn’t feel it was a red.

It would have been easy for Newtown to throw in the towel when they were already bailing huge water from the ship, but they kept going and kept raging against the tide. They were brilliant in the second quarter but it was always going to be difficult to sustain that level against a team with such a head of steam built up. The game was effectively finished by Ben Cunningham’s goal just after half-time.

The two best teams are definitely in the final. I’d say you could have a classic in store in a few weeks. There was absolutely nothing between them when they met already and there will probably be less when they square up again.

It will be a 50-50 game but I’d have a slight fancy for the Barrs. They may be better defensively. Ethan Twomey and Ben O’Connor were seriously impressive early on and I think they’ll only get better as they are growing and developing with each passing game.

The fact that the Cahalanes play against a raft of these boys next week with Castlehaven may be a slight negative ahead of a county hurling final. But the Barrs have impressively dealt with every obstacle so far and I’m sure they’ll get past that tricky one too. If I was to lean one way now, I think there is something about the Barrs this year.

It will be a great occasion on October 16th, just like it was yesterday. Landers was cock a hoop afterwards but I couldn’t resist one final ball hop for the craic. The two O’Carrolls playing with Erin’s Own, Maurice and James, are sons of Mossie Carroll, and nephews of Frankie Carroll, who I played alongside with Garyspillane and Limerick for years.

It wasn’t all one Cork Markeen. There were Limerick hues running through the blood red too.

Couldn’t resist it.

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