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All-Ireland breakthrough - 'It does mean a lot to Cork fans. They're absolutely thrilled with it'

Cork manager Pat Ryan reflected on last night’s win over Dublin.

Cork players celebrate their victory.
Cork players celebrate their victory.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

PAT RYAN WAS well placed to appreciate the importance of this win.

24 years ago he was part of a Cork U21 team that claimed All-Ireland honours as they overcame Galway. The following year in 1998 they retained that title but the county has endured a barren spell since then in that grade. In an overall sense it has been a period of struggle for Cork hurling with no substantial national hurling silverware secured since 2005.

So if last night was about praising the group that Ryan managed to win a long-awaited 2020 All-Ireland decider, he had the awareness of the wider impact of this four-point success over Dublin.

“It takes pressure off everybody going forward. We can breathe out a small bit and just really attack things going forward as the years go on. It does mean a lot to Cork fans, they’re absolutely thrilled with it. You can see fellas around here that go to all the Cork matches. People love Cork hurling and we’re delighted just to see that come back into it.”

Ryan did stress that for this specific group, past Cork failings were not an issue for them.

“It didn’t really factor at all because we knew these lads were very successful all the way up along. They’d won the U17 competition, they’d played in Munster finals, they’d won Munster finals, they’d played in All-Ireland finals, couldn’t get over the line.

“They were fantastic players, we knew that. They had no baggage themselves. When the players have no baggage, why should we? We’ve a lot of good hurlers in Cork, a lot of high skilful players. I think when you factor in then that we bring that work rate to it, that’s a huge thing.”

The victory for Cork was one long-awaited event, the actual playing of this game was another. The 2020 season had spilled over due to the winter lockdown and it was 199 days since Cork’s last championship tie when they won the Munster final.

That was a striking aspect of this breakthrough, that Cork had managed a period fraught with such uncertainty to still keep the team in good condition.

pat-ryan-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Cork manager Pat Ryan celebrates at the final whistle. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“A lot of hard work went into it,” admitted Ryan.

“A lot of soul searching and nights trying to get things right. Our training and preparation had gone very well. We’ve a lot of experience in our backroom staff.

“We managed the Covid side of things very well, that break from January to May, we trusted them to do their own thing and they repaid us in spades. We’ve a fantastic strength and conditioning person in Adam McCarthy, and obviously with Aidan O’Connell involved now as well, we’re getting the really high class expertise in that level.

“We’ve two physios Colm Coakley and Darren O’Donovan, and they’ve done mighty work for us. We’ve been very lucky, we’ve had one injury since we came back which is a credit to them.”

Cork’s lightning start paved the way for the outcome. They had 1-4 on the board before Dublin had managed a shot on goal. Cork finished with ten different players chipping in on the scoring front. They got a return of 0-3 off the bench, three starters hit 0-3 apiece and four other players scored 0-2. 

There was a strong balance to the team and an array of contributors that served them well.

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cork-players-celebrate-at-the-end-of-the-game Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“That was our plan to start well,” said Ryan.

“We’ve a lot of very good forwards and that was the plan, that we’d run at them, move the ball as quick as we can around the place. Then bring in a couple of subs, I think our impact off the bench was very good, it could have been better. We missed a couple we should have scored but Dublin were a very good side, played some great hurling as well.

“Delighted with our fellas on the night. When you’re not used to winning, it takes a while to get over the line. I think in fairness we were full value for our win in the end. To a man they showed great valour and commitment to the cause. We’ve some very good players going forward in Cork.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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