Cork have ‘no fear’ of Clare – and the record to prove it
Latest Munster showdown between Cork and Clare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday
Cork’s Eoin Cadogan: “For the whole group the first game is going to be the number one focus – then park it whether you win or lose and move on.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
At the time it sounded like a mildly redundant point, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín saying just a few weeks ago that Cork had no fear of Clare when it comes to the Munster Hurling Championship. At least not back in his day.
“You get the sense Clare are building and emerging for this year,” he said, “but I’ve sat in Cork dressing rooms and as good as the Ger Loughnane teams were, and they were good, we never feared them for some strange reason.
“And we would have feared other teams. That’s not being boastful or arrogant, but Cork players think that way. So, I don’t think they will be overawed.”
Ó hAilpín’s point still holds some relevance going into Sunday’s latest Munster showdown between the counties at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the first of the new round-robin games. With the not insignificant exception of the 2013 All-Ireland final when Clare beat Cork in a replay, Cork haven’t lost another championship match to Clare since the turn of the century, winning nine to Clare’s sole 2013 win.
Over their all-time Munster showdowns, Cork are leading 37-12, the latest being last year’s Munster final at Semple Stadium, where Clare’s favouritism soon evaporated and Cork won by five points.
Cork also won the 2015 qualifier (0-20 to 0-17) and the 2014 Munster semi-final (2-23 to 2-18).
Ó hAilpín’s other point that day was that most Cork hurlers, including the current team, prefer the harder, fastest ground which Páirc Uí Chaoimh should offer up on Sunday, presuming Ed Sheeran hasn’t left any mark.
“You need to win your home games,” he said. “You might still qualify, dropping a game, but the last thing you want to get into is score difference with another team. In some ways Cork going in as underdogs is better. Many people could be writing off Cork, but how many times have you seen them perform better that way.”
With Limerick hosting Tipperary in the other round-robin fixture, Waterford get an extra week’s rest – or delay – depending on how it all works out (Waterford will then play four weekends in a row).
Clare did beat Cork in the third round of the league back in February, and Cork also needed to survive a relegation play-off with Waterford to stay in division 1A. Clare eventually went down to Limerick after an ultra-marathon quarter-final two days after St Patrick’s Day.
Cork have Eoin Cadogan back on board this year, having concentrated on his hurling over the last two years, and at age 31 the primary challenge of the new format is recovering from one week to the next. “I’m definitely not going out with the idea of ‘oh, I’m only going out to play two games’ even if I am going to be picked to play.
“We have to break it down into segments and moments, and the first moment is going to be Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. You can’t really worry about the following week – the nature of the game is that there are going to be knocks and niggles regardless of age or what position you play.
“For the whole group the first game is going to be the number one focus – then park it whether you win or lose and move on.”