Slicker Cork can escape Dublin’s clutches
Great championship approaches endgame with little between first two semi-finalists
Cork have proved very reliant on Pat Horgan in their championship outings to date. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The hurling championship has been completely re-energised by this season’s events. In recent years any time you were asked about the All-Ireland in August, the likely answer was ‘Kilkenny’ or ‘maybe Tipp or Galway’.
This year we’ve a couple of counties who’ve waited a long time for an All-Ireland and a couple of others who haven’t won for a while and no certainty as to who is going to claim the Liam MacCarthy cup .
The surprises have come thick and fast. Arguably both the Munster semi-finals and the final were won by the underdogs and it was the same for two of those three matches in Leinster. Both All-Ireland quarter-finals also went to the outsiders so it’s been an exciting and unpredictable championship.
This follows on from a very competitive though at the time a much-maligned league. Interestingly the four semi-finalists were the top two in Division One B and the bottom two in Division One A. Up to this lower division sides haven’t been coming through as competitively in the summer.
In the league semi-finals Tipperary seemed to confirm that trend by hammering Dublin but whereas that week spent on Bere Island looked like a mistake at the time, it benefited Dublin’s mental and athletic development in the long run.
I think the two draws in Leinster were massive days for Dublin. Down in Wexford they looked in danger of going out and then the first day against Kilkenny they confirmed to themselves what they had believed going to Portlaoise in 2012 – that they had the beating of the champions.
The team improved from day to day with Conal Keaney, Liam Rushe and Danny Sutcliffe, Dotsy O’Callaghan and Paul Ryan finding top form. As a unit Anthony Daly’s players have been bringing more than athleticism to their game; there was greater thought and direction to their hurling against Galway in the Leinster final and – unlike against Wexford when they shot from wrong positions – they worked the ball into the right areas to create optimum chances and take them.
It was at the time the best display I’d seen from Dublin but in the weeks since you have to query Galway. There’s no question about Dublin’s athleticism, power and hunger but the belief that their hurling has gone to another level relies too much on the Leinster final against a team who we have seen since were clearly off the pace.
So there’s a question about how Dublin will respond if they don’t manage to overpower Cork and end up on the back foot. Maybe their hurling will hold up but the big question is whether it will be slick enough. They have the physical power and ball-winning ability but what will they do with possession?