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'Fellas were hurting about what was said and written, but there was no argument, you deserve what you get'

Kieran Kingston saw his Cork team rebound yesterday with a qualifier victory.

Cork players Robert Downey and Stephen McDonnell after the game.
Cork players Robert Downey and Stephen McDonnell after the game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE SCORING TOTAL was almost the same, a point more than the total recorded the previous Saturday, but the outcome and emotions were vastly different.

Cork returned to Semple Stadium yesterday and if they didn’t wipe away all the doubts sparked by their previous visit, they did produce a response, generate some positivity and get the necessary result to prolong their season.

A six-point win over Dublin followed a four-point loss to Waterford, neither margin truly reflecting the scale of their superiority or struggle, but the upshot is they still have a shout in the 2020 hurling race and a reason to listen in to RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday morning.

“Fellas were hurting about what was said and written, but there was no argument, you deserve what you get,” reflected Kieran Kingston.

“They were really disappointed over the performance last Saturday and today doesn’t take away from that. We’re hugely annoyed over it.

“It’s easy to say it now, but the attitude in training during the week was really good, which we brought to the field today in terms of workrate, attitude, use of the ball.

“We’re much happier. The subs we brought in made a big impact and gave us a lift.”

What was different about Cork? Kingston cut up his teamsheet from the previous week and changed a third of it. All the additions brought something. Robbie O’Flynn, Jack O’Connor and Declan Dalton hit a combined 1-7 from play. There were other attributes like O’Flynn’s acceleration from the half-forward line, O’Connor’s early trickery and the direction Dalton gave the team.

The input of Luke Meade and Colm Spillane may not have been as easy to measure but the former knitted together attacks impressively from midfield while Spillane again proved the type of defensive solidity Cork are crying out for when he is absent.

kieran-kingston-during-the-game Cork manager Kieran Kingston during the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It’s a very young team and panel in many ways,” stated Kingston.

“Games like this will help them hugely to develop. We had two making their championship debuts, Robbie hadn’t played since being suspended in the league, and they were fantastic.”

Tactically Cork tweaked a few aspects. Patrick Horgan played deeper at number 11, Shane Kingston started inside closer to goal, Seamus Harnedy floated from wing to wing as he frequently discovered pockets of space.

That made them less predictable in attack. Whereas against Waterford they rained ball down on top of Tadhg De Búrca in the second half, there was less length in their striking, more refinement and variety to their approach. Cork’s passing was excellent.

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At the back they stuck Robert Downey on Chris Crummey, matched Colm Spillane with Ronan Hayes, identifying the twin threats that had posed Kilkenny problems the previous week.

ronan-hayes-and-colm-spillane Dublin's Ronan Hayes and Cork's Colm Spillane. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Most of all there was the critical influence that Mark Coleman exerted in dictating the play from defence.

“Mark’s hurling speaks for itself and we all know what he can do,” said his manager.

“He had freedom to move across the half-back line and we pushed him out and back. He’s an outstanding player, he showed it last week and again today.”

That’s the list of plus points. Here’s the flispide. The latest injury update for starters.

“Sean O’Donoghue we’ll have to assess, it’s a bit early yet. Darragh Fitzgibbon and Alan and Eoin Cadogan – unlikely either will be available for next weekend. Alan hurt his quad during the week.”

The level of performance Dublin served up places an asterisk next to this. Cork brought greater aggression and energy but their opponents usage of possession was extremely poor.

They also were turning out for the third weekend in a row, a schedule Kingston’s Cork side now face.

And there is the maddening issue for Cork of consistency. This performance was within their capacity but it’s still unclear whether it was a short-term rally or a seasonal turning point or a sign they are in a longer-term project.

Amidst the praise, Kingston holds some pragmatism.

“The nature of the county championships in Cork meant we had less than three weeks with the lads before the Waterford game. Nine of the lads who played today had county finals four weeks ago or so, we had to give them a bit of time off so we’ve had three weeks or so with them.

“There’s a massive difference in intensity between those club games and county games, and it takes a while to adjust to that.

“We’d obviously love to have more time. That’s not passing the buck in any way, the buck stops with me, but the more preparation, the more work you can do.”

“Let’s not get carried away – this gets us into the draw next Monday morning and that’s all it does really.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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