expert view

John Gardiner: Cork and Kilkenny issue statements of intent while Offaly hit rock bottom’s columnist was hugely impressed by the Rebels and the Cats over the weekend.

Anthony Nash signs autographs for supporters Anthony Nash signs autographs for Cork fans. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

REPLAYS CAN OFTEN deviate from the pattern of a drawn game. Yesterday’s Munster senior hurling replay in Thurles was a pure example of that, a complete contrast to the match that we had witnessed a fortnight ago.

Cork started in a far brighter fashion. Their tackling, intensity and defending were far better. That really set the platform for the dominance that led to their 14-point win.

They worked the ball well and picked out their passes to their forwards. A typical example came from an Alan Cadogan point in the first-half after Mark Ellis delivered a diagonal ball in his direction. That sort of play didn’t happen often enough in the drawn match.

Cork needed big games from their attackers and they got them. Conor Lehane caught the eye particularly in this regard. He was far more involved. I mentioned previously that Seamus Harnedy is more suited to the half-forward line and he proved that yesterday.

When the game was competitive at the start, he struck points and ran into space all day for Nash’s puckouts. The switch also suited Patrick Cronin. He gets some criticism from Cork supporters but he was a good target man yesterday. I was delighted for him.

Patrick Cronin and Michael Walsh Captain Patrick Cronin led Cork to victory on Sunday. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Lehane showed his quality with four points and beside him Bill Cooper will be very happy with his first full performance. He broke onto the Cork panel in 2011 when I was involved. You could see he had potential then but a back injury caused him problems. He’s taken his chance now when he got it.

Cork will be delighted with their victory but they must realise Waterford were very poor. They struggled to win breaking ball but there was little direction in their deliveries to their forward line. They folded over when their big players came under pressure.

Deise Future

My feeling on Waterford is that their young players need as many senior games as they can get. They tried hard yesterday but they were fighting a losing battle. I think 2014 will be a year to build their team, get a run in the qualifiers and bring a few more players on. They’ve an important Munster U21 game against Cork in July. Over the next few years, their young talents will come through to properly challenge in the Munster senior championship.

The best moment of the game was seeing Paudie O’Sullivan back in action. I was with Cork physio Declan O’Sullivan last week and he told me that Paudie has done over 320 days of rehab on his leg. That doesn’t include days he was resting the injury. That’s an incredible level of commitment and determination.

People nearly forgot about him last year but he played well for Cloyne last week and then came on to hit two points yesterday. His return is a massive bonus for Cork and gives their management a nice problem when trying to pick the forward line.

Paudie O'Sullivan and Michael Walsh Paudie O'Sullivan was back in scoring form for Cork. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

It sets up a cracking Munster semi-final next Sunday. Yesterday’s win was great preparation for Cork. Their confidence will be high, they picked up no injuries and issued a statement of intent yesterday. Training this week will be minimal, probably a bit on Wednesday, a bit on Friday and then get set for Sunday.

The Cork hurling crowd can be fickle but they’ll get behind the team after yesterday and travel in numbers to Thurles. Clare being in the opposition corner adds to that.

When you lose in championship, you really want to get back the following year and prove yourself. Having a crack off the team that defeated you, motivates you all the more. Clare are the All-Ireland champions and represent a huge challenge. It’s going to be a brilliant game.

JJ Delaney and Jackie Tyrrell with Brian Carroll Kilkenny's hunger looks to be back. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Cats In Control

Cork weren’t the only side to issue a statement of intent at the weekend. Kilkenny were superb on Saturday night. They’d no Henry, Tommy came off the bench and Michael Rice has done his cruciate. But they still have so many different guys available for so many different positions.

I think their belief and hunger are back. The way they went out last year annoyed them, this year will see a different mentality. Scoring 5-32 was a frightening total for the rest of the country. Kilkenny were clinical, took their goal chances and simply demolished Offaly.

It was a dark night for Offaly. Their players, management, supporters and county board will have suffered watching that. Trying to sort this mess out will be tough.

James Dempsey’s great saves helped them on Saturday while Brian Carroll was excellent but they can’t keep depending on him up front. They need to get a strategy together to turn hurling around in their county. They’ve a long road ahead of them and have hit rock bottom now.

A dejected Ger Healion and Stephen Quirke It was a tough night for the Offaly hurlers on Saturday. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

After injury nightmare, Paudie O’Sullivan’s comeback day for the Cork hurlers is ‘perfect’

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