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A better outing against Tipp, new prospects perform and Cork's search for consistency

Kieran Kingston saw his team pick up their opening league win last night.

Damien Cahalane got on the scoresheet for Cork last night.
Damien Cahalane got on the scoresheet for Cork last night.
Image: INPHO

CORK ENDURED A couple of trying hurling afternoons on home soil in 2019 when they took on Tipperary.

Last March they were dismantled by 13 points in Páirc Uí Rinn in the league. The margin was cut to seven when the teams met in the championship in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in May but the defeat was still decisive and Cork’s season never got back on track.

Last night won’t soothe the pain of the latter loss in particular. It’s a victory where the usual warnings apply to any analysis, not least due to the scheduling on the first night of February, and yet it still felt like an outcome of some value to their camp.

Tipperary’s status as reigning All-Ireland champions entitles them to ease themselves gently into the rigours of a season, Cork cannot be afforded the same luxury. In the context of their travails last summer, the arrival of a new manager – albeit one who has been at the helm before – and the loss to Waterford in their opening shot at the 2020 league, their need for a success felt greater last night.

They got there in the end by two points yet Kingston spoke afterwards about being most pleased by the nature of Cork’s performance. He used terms like effort, attitude and honesty when highlighting areas they showed up well in. They were only defeated by a point last Sunday and had struck 17 wides to generate regrets in Walsh Park but Cork looked to have approached this with a different shift in focus.

They worked harder and attacked the exchanges better. If at times the match felt like an exercise in trading points relentlessly between the teams, there were snapshots that will please Cork. The display of graft amongst the Cork attack when they turned over Ronan Maher in possession to yield the penalty before half-time which Patrick Horgan despatched.

A few players put their hands up. Patrick Collins was really alert to threats in goal, he made a few solid saves and one spectacular block late on to deny Niall O’Meara. He was only beaten once when Brian Hogan smashed to the roof of the net from a penalty. He had good protection in front of him, another positive in Robert Downey’s adjustment to the full-back role just over two years since he played full-forward in a minor final in Croke Park.

In attack Robbie O’Flynn was referenced by Kingston for seizing an opportunity and working hard. He was certainly a busy presence in the half-forward line, posting a tally of 1-3 and his surging run saw that penalty awarded before Horgan cracked home Cork’s second goal. Inside O’Flynn in the first half, Alan Cadogan was similarly threatening in attack. Between knee and hip problems, his recent seasons have been pockmarked by injury issues but he looked sharp and inventive here in knocking over 0-4.

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The team’s leadership core of Cooper, Harnedy and Horgan all impacted as the game wore on while Damien Cahalane seems a player enjoying the release into a defensive role on the flank.

Some injuries cropped up. A knock to the quad saw Aidan Walsh withdrawn during the first half, an ankle problem saw Tim O’Mahony join him on the bench before the break. Cork have a break next weekend before they travel to Mullingar on 16 February but a sizeable bunch of players from their squad will be on Fitzgibbon Cup duty at the DCU Sportsground next Saturday.

The game saw a result and display Cork are capable of but Kingston drilled down to the heart of the matter in his post-match deliberations. He’s well aware of the criticism that has been flung in Cork’s direction over their glaring inconsistency in recent times.

A triumph over Tipperary will not define their standing but how they perform over the next few weeks will be instructive.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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