NOBODY wants to get carried away but there were definite signs of a major revival on the Cork hurling front following Sunday’s 1-17 to 1-15 National League success over Kilkenny at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
When Kilkenny boss Brian Cody is impressed you must be doing something right. And Cody was rich in his praise for Cork’s efforts.
“Cork could have won by more.” Cody admitted. “They were definitely the better team and we were probably lucky only to lose by two points.
“We were playing second fiddle in nearly every position. Their young lads were very impressive. Cork were just very good.”
Most importantly, Sunday’s win gives Cork a real chance of making the league semi-finals. They now face a crunch match away to Tipperary on Sunday.
More clearly will be known then but, for the moment, their manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy is well pleased with his team’s progress. The previous weekend there had been some concern when they blew an eight-poit lead against Galway.
But the concentration levels were of a much higher level against Kilkenny. The key was their effort in holding the All-Ireland champions to 1-10 to 1-8 after playing against the breeze in the first half.
Once again, 19-year-old Conor Lehane impressed but he was only one of a number of young players to do so. Leaving Cert student Darren Sweetman was influential in midfield, while Stephen McDonnell had a big game at full-back.
It was a good mixture of youth and experience as Eoin Cadogan made a big impression at centre-back. It was a wild swing on Cadogan which brought about a a straight red card for Kilkenny’s top scorer Richie Power in the dying minutes.
Power had scored 1-11, 1-9 of which came from placed balls, but he now misses the final outing against Galway on Sunday. Despite their defeat, Kilkenny still lead the table on points difference from Cork.
They will be fancied to make the semi-finals when they take on Galway at Nowlan Park but Cody will be looking for a big improvement. Apart from the contribution of Power, they were well short of their best.
Cork, on the other hand, produced much the better team effort. Pat Horgan was their leading scorer with 0-8, seven from frees, and Paudie O’Sullivan scored their goal.
Elsewhere, Dublin and Tipperary fought out a 2-15 to 0-21 draw at Croke Park, while Waterford surprised Galway, winning by 1-14 to 0-15 in Salthill. Although Dublin are due to be involved in a relegation play-off, their manager Anthony Daly is in reasonable mood.
Dublin did, after all, produce very useful performances against Cork and Kilkenny, only to lose both games by a point. Against Tipperary, they were without a number of key players. But they stuck to their guns and came away with a draw from a game they could so easily have lost. It took a last minute goal from Liam Rushe to earn the Dubs a share of the spoils.
“We’re delighted to get something from the game, especially after what happened to us against Kilkenny and Cork.” said Daly. “Of course, we’re disappointed that we find ourselves at the bottom of the table but the manner of this draw gives us a real boost.”
Waterford received an even greater boost when they overcame Galway away. John Mullane made a significant contribution in his first appearance, contributing two points, but Pauric Mahony, with nine points from frees, was the top scorer.
The defeat was a major disappointment for Galway, particularly as they may well now lose out on a semi-final spot. Manager Anthony Cunningham commented: “We were very flat, attacking poorly, defending poorly and generally taking the wrong options.”
Clare are though to the Division 1B final following their 3-16 to 0-18 victory over Wexford in Ennis. Limerick and Offaly drew (2-16 to 4-10) at the Gaelic Grounds, while Antrim got the better of Laois by 2-28 to 2-16 at Casement Park.
Kingdom into last four
KERRY made certain of a place in the National Football League Division One semi-finals following a comfortable 0-20 to 1-13 success over Laois at Fitzgerald Stadium.
What made the victory impressive was that Kerry had to play all but 10 minutes of the game with 14 men. Tomas O Se was shown a straight red card following an off the ball incident, his third in the last 10 months.
No matter, Kerry were still too good for Laois. The victory means that they top the table, two points clear of their nearest challengers Dublin and Down.
Manager Jack O’Connor made good use of his bench and, once again, Bryan Sheehan was very accurate, contributing 0-6, five of which came from frees. Patrick Curtin, 0-4 from play, was though the man-of-the-match.
O’Connor did not give an opinion on the sending off on the basis that he did not see it. Elsewhere, Dublin responded from their defeat to Down with a 2-16 to 0-13 victory over Donegal at Croke Park on Saturday night.
It was very different from the dour All-Ireland semi-final meeting between the two sides. Dublin well deserved their victory but two injury time goals from Bryan Cullen and Diarmuid Connolly gave the scoreline a flattering appearance.
“We fatigued a bit in the last five our 10 minutes. I don’t think our fitness level is the same as Dublin’s,” explained Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.
Another factor which clearly didn’t help Donegal was the injury which forced skipper Michael Murphy to go off with 10 minutes left. The impressive Murphy had been a thorn in Dublin’s side, scoring six points.
Connolly finished top scorer for the Dubs with 1-3. Manager Pat Gilroy readily admitted that the scoreline flattered his side.
He said: “Donegal really put it up to us in the second half . We made too many mistakes but, overall, it was a good win for us.”
Cork, like Kerry, overcame the handicap of playing with 14 men to defeat Mayo by 0-14 to 0-13 at McHale Park. Centre-back Mark Collins was shown the red card after 30 minutes.
Given that they led by 0-11 to 0-6 with 18 minutes remaining, and had a man advantage,, Mayo should have won. Somehow, though Cork, rallied, gradually reducing Mayo’s advantage before winning the game with an injury time point from Donnacha O’Connor.
Despite the nature of the defeat, Mayo boss James Horan is refusing to panic. He said: “Of course it was disappointing but we just have to put it behind us. We need to get back on the training ground and keep working.”
The final game in Division One saw Armagh record a dramatic 1-14 to 0-16 victory over Down at the Morgan Park Athletic Grounds. Ciaran McKeever, only cleared to play after his two-match ban was lifted, made a vital contribution.
He hit a magnificent equalizing point before Michael Stevenson came up with a dramatic last minute winner from a free. Their efforts are a great boost to Armagh’s hopes of Division One survival.
Down remain in third place in the table, but fourth-placed Cork do have a game in hand.
Tyrone, meanwhile, had already clinched promotion and a place in the Division Two final prior to their 1-2 to 0-5 Division Two victory over Meath on Sunday.
Surprisingly, Meath are facing the possibility of relegation to Division Three unless they can beat Louth in their final outing. They were never in the running against a much superior Tyrone outfit.
It’s hard to know what has gone wrong for Meath. They have now lost four on the trot after beating Monaghan and Westmeath in their opening tow games.
“It has got worse with each game.” admitted selector Tom Keague. “We’re so flat at the minute, Tyrone were far superior. We now have a huge game against Louth.”
Bottom of the table Louth prepared for that clash with a useful 0-19 to 1-16 away draw with Derry. Elsewhere, second placed Kilare demolished Westmeath (3-23 to 1-12), and Galway got the better of Monaghan (1-14 to 0-12).
Longford continue to lead Division Three after drawing 0-12 each with Tipperary, while Fermanagh head Division Four, despite not playing over the weekend.