Allianz HL Division 1A
Galway v Cork
Tomorrow: Pearse Stadium, 2.30pm
Cork rolled into Croke Park last Saturday night and rolled back out with a win over Dublin and an impressive 34 points on the scoreboard.
The night was marred, however, by the cruciate ligament injury picked up early in the game by Christopher Joyce, an injury which rules the Cork defender out for the season.
His teammate Lorcan McLoughlin says the entire Rebel panel is disappointed for the Na Piarsaigh man.
“It was terrible news to get earlier in the week,” said McLoughlin.
“We’re gutted for Christopher, he’s one of the most dedicated, committed fellas on the panel, and he brings huge leadership to the team.
“He was filling the full-back role fantastically for us and I’m very disappointed for him because I know just how much work he was putting into training.
“Just one innocuous fall and his whole year is over, he’ll be a huge loss for us and we’re all encouraging him to get back as soon as he can.”
Cork’s demolition of Dublin raised a few eyebrows but McLoughlin is too experienced to take it for more than it is: “I think it was a case of us being good on the night and Dublin being below par,” said the Kanturk man.
“That’s what’s funny about the league, you don’t know what training teams are doing, what they’re at away from games, but that can’t be a concern of yours during a game. It doesn’t matter to us if we win by a point or by ten points once you win — then you move on.”
Cork have been in a similar situation themselves this season — a disappointing defeat at home to Kilkenny meant some self-examination was in order.
“It’s very hard to see form in the league, we certainly wouldn’t have been happy with our performance that first evening out against Kilkenny.
“We’ve put a couple of performances together since then, but Dublin had a couple of good games themselves against Tipperary and Kilkenny, and then they under-performed against us last weekend.
“The fact that it happened last weekend in Croke Park, I wouldn’t overstate it. There’s a long year ahead, hopefully, and plenty of games for Dublin to get it right.”
There are less tangible benefits to the visit to the capital. Playing a competitive game in Croke Park, for instance.
“It definitely helps to get the run-out there, the conditions were perfect Saturday night as well, the pitch was like a carpet, but the whole experience of getting to play there always helps.
“Fair enough, the atmosphere wasn’t what you’d get in a big championship game there during the summer but there was a good crowd there by the end of it for the football game (Dublin-Tyrone) afterwards.
“We had a couple of new players in to experience it as well, even though the game wasn’t hugely competitive.”
McLoughlin dismisses praise for his performance at wing-back — “I’ve done a bit at wing-back over the years, even at colleges level, so it’s not as if it’s a new assignment in some ways; last weekend we were going so well that everyone, really, looked good in the game,” — preferring to focus on this weekend’s opponents, Galway.
“I’ve seen them in their last couple of games and they’ve been very impressive, beating Kilkenny in particular,” he said.
“What’s stood out for me is the six forwards they have, they’ve been hurling well together, putting up good scores, they’re physically aggressive and very good in the tackle — and now Joe Canning is back in the mix as well.
“They tick all the boxes and it’ll be a huge challenge in Salthill, in particular, where it’ll probably be a bit windy and open.”
Canning was crucial to defeating Kilkenny last week, chipping in with some trademark points. McLoughlin acknowledges his quality but points out that Galway aren’t a one-man team.
“All of Galway’s forwards have been good, so it’s not even a particular job for the defenders picking them up — it’s up to the entire team to defend from the front, even if that sounds like a cliche.
“But if your forwards are working hard, putting their men under pressure when they’re trying to clear the ball then that helps the defence, because it means the opposition forwards aren’t getting the perfect ball delivered to them. Stopping opponents delivering early ball is crucial.
“Look, Joe’s a special player, he can turn a game in a second. We know that. But Galway have more players than him, and we’ll have to keep an eye on all of them, not just him.”
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