Lorcan McLoughlin is hoping Cork can kickstart their season against Kilkenny, just as Dublin did, but the Kanturk midfielder is wary of the consensus the crown is slipping from the heads of the All-Ireland champions.
The Leinster county has been fielding enquiries as to its general well-being since being bettered by the Dubs in a Leinster semi-final replay, their defeats of Tipperary and Waterford failing to convince sceptics.
“People say Kilkenny are slipping, but they are still grinding out games,” said McLoughlin ahead of the All-Ireland quarter-final between the traditional giants in Thurles this Sunday.
“They seem to be getting a bit of momentum now. Whoever beats Kilkenny, it is going to take a superhuman effort. This year people said more teams have more of a chance of winning than other years. It is great to see Dublin winning Leinster and Limerick winning Munster. It’s bringing a freshness to the championship. But whoever beats Kilkenny, they are going to earn it. It’s as simple as that.”
For all their perceived problems, the shadow of Kilkenny continues to loom large over a hurling championship which has conspired to produce a succession of memorable and unpredictable results and a Cork triumph at the weekend would elicit a sigh of relief from every other county still involved in the competition.
McLoughlin knows better than to display any signs of giddiness. He spoke about the need to hit the ground running against a side that has dealt liberally in times past in early blows of a lethal nature and they have men such as Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly who creep closer to full fitness every day.
“Cork people love going out playing Kilkenny because of their tradition and hurlers they have. If you look at them one to 15 they are exceptional hurlers, they are the best team in the country, and you want to measure yourself against the best team. As a young team that’s what you want to do.
“As a midfielder you are looking at the best midfield pairing with Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice and they even have Lester Ryan coming into it. Whatever pairing they have they are excellent hurlers and it is going to take a huge effort but I think both teams will bring out the best in each other.”
Cork have contributed significantly to hurling’s policy of glasnost this last few months. Their defeat of Clare, though perfectly in keeping with tradition, was one of those results which confounded form and expectation but they would leap to the top of the box office queue should Kilkenny be evicted under their watch.
That, and an All-Ireland semi-final spot, would some distance towards masking over the disappointment of that Munster final defeat to Limerick which was the closest McLoughlin and the vast majority of a young Cork team have come thus far to experiencing the thrill of victory on one of hurling’s great days.
“You can take a step back and you’d love to experience that feeling as a Cork person. That’s what the Munster championship is about, an evening like that. I know Limerick won it and it was the Limerick fans that were on the pitch, but it’s a huge occasion. It’s huge for a county to win something like that.
“Especially seeing as Limerick hadn’t won it in 17 years. It gives the county a huge lift. Anything you win, you earn it. In fairness to Limerick they performed well on the day. They got some fabulous scores. I couldn’t begrudge them.”
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