William Egan believes a lot of Cork hurling supporters got carried away with themselves in the lead up to the Division 1 final earlier this month.
Their 14-point defeat to Kilkenny burst a few bubbles about just how much Jimmy Barry-Murphy has turned the team around in just over four months.
“The Cork public was probably running away with itself. Before the game, they were saying we were back but realistically we knew in January that if we got to a league final it would be a good start to the year.
“We knew there’s a big gap between us and Kilkenny and Tipp. We knew we had stuff to work on.
“We’re hoping to use Kilkenny last year as a template to follow. They rectified mistakes and that paid dividends in the end so we’re hoping to follow that.”
Egan said the panel were aware of just how much was being made of their run to the league final, which included wins over Kilkenny and then Tipperary in the semi-final.
“Yeah, a small bit all right. Even people the week before the match, people were saying we had a massive chance.
“Then, the week after people were saying we were the worst team of all time. People have their own opinions and we know what to expect.”
Egan is currently nursing a shoulder injury after lining out for Kilbrin in a junior league game at the weekend.
“One of their players was acting the goat and I got a bit of a belt. I’ll be grand in a few days — a week,” he said.
As he alluded to, he hopes Cork follow Kilkenny’s example and harness the pain of a heavy league final defeat to their advantage in the championship.
“We saw last year with Kilkenny, they got a bit of beating by Dublin and we saw then in the championship they beat them well in the Leinster final and went onto win it [the All-Ireland].
“That’s the kind of template we want to follow now in four weeks’ time. The league as a whole was a success but the league final was a downer.
“We’re going to take the positive and negatives out of that and work on them over the next four weeks and rectify our mistakes and hopefully give Tipp a good crack in four weeks.”
He anticipated Tipperary would win last Sunday but thought it was Limerick’s game with 15 minutes to go.
“The strength in depth was vital. The subs Tipp brought on were just hopping and they turned the game for them.
“The consensus was that we would be playing Tipp but sure we saw on Sunday that there wasn’t much between the two teams.
“You saw the strength in depth of the Tipperary panel. They brought on Seamus Callanan, Bonner Maher, Shane Bourke... people like that had added to the thing and when they got the goal the momentum was with them. They’re a great side and very hard to beat.”
Meanwhile, Tipperary’s John O’Brien expects they will feel Cork’s league final wrath on Jun 24.
The Toomevara man believes the late win over Limerick will stand to his team but they’ll need every bit of it in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“Cork will have no fear playing us. They beat us the last day in the league and they’re after rising it and their young players are flying.
“They’ll be looking forward to that game, especially after the Kilkenny game.
“I know from ourselves that when you get beaten by Kilkenny you want a game to come quick.
“We might as well be wearing Kilkenny jerseys the next day. They’ll want to beat any team they meet after that game.”
Despite being seven points down late into the second half, O’Brien said the team never panicked on Sunday, having been through closer scraps before.
“With 15 minutes to go, it didn’t look good but I don’t think any in this team has ever said anything about the character of it.
“The character is there and we trust each individual player in there and we trust the boys on the bench and the management team as well.
“We’ve had a few close shaves with this group over the last number of years but we’ve always come through.
“You can go back to Galway a couple of years ago [All-Ireland quarter-final]. We were down a few points with a couple of minutes left.
“I think it comes down to each individual player trusting each other. The management team were happy to bring on five subs knowing they would do a job as well.”
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