Aidan Walsh justifies selection as Cork see off Limerick
All-Ireland champions haven’t beaten Rebels in normal time in their last four meetings
Aidan Walsh celebrates Cork’s win over Limerick. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
In its second year the provincial hurling round-robin is getting no easier to work out but even by those standards, Sunday’s eclipse of All-Ireland champions Limerick by a reenergised Cork was a turn-up.
Should it have been? For all of the credentials that Limerick had accumulated in the past 12 months, it is interesting - certainly in retrospect - that in four meetings with John Meyler’s Cork in that time, they haven’t beaten them once over 70 minutes.
The epic All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park was the only fixture won by Limerick, after extra time, whereas one was drawn and Cork won the others, both in the Gaelic Grounds - on Sunday and in a widely-disregarded league fixture last February.
After the disastrously below-par opening round against Tipperary, Meyler made a number of changes. Probably the most surprising was the decision to start Aidan Walsh. The former football All Star and international rules player has throughout this decade criss-crossed from one code to the other, once again declaring for the hurlers before this season began.
Sunday was a return to the venue where he first made a public impact as a hurler, playing for the county Under-21s in the 2011 Munster final against Limerick. Eight of the players from that rainy evening eight years ago were in senior action last Sunday.
It went to extra time and Walsh was named Man of the Match in recognition of his eight points from play at wing forward but Cork lost.
His reappearance last weekend, starting at corner forward but drifting out where his physical presence proved extremely disruptive to the Limerick engine room.
He laid down a marker early. In the eighth minute he was twice involved in a sequence that saw him break up the play and provide a scoring assist for Séamus Harnedy. From the puck-out he repeated the dose, winning the ball and setting up a scoring chance for Darragh Fitzgibbon, which dropped short.
In the second half, he was a target for puck-outs, winning ball, breaking it and providing a further assist. He didn’t take on scoring attempts but of the other seven forwards used by Cork, six scored from play but Walsh understands his role in the team on Sunday.
“I know I don’t have the skill of the Hoggies (Patrick Horgan) or the (Conor) Lehanes or the (Alan) Cadogans, but I know when they do get the ball they’ll do the damage,” he said.
“I’m happy enough to work hard, run as much as I can, run myself into the ground and make space for the boys, get the ball and give it to the shooters. Most teams have someone like that and I’m happy if I’m given the opportunity, to do it.”
Now, the world has turned and with Munster taking a rest week and Cork having their fixture bye the following weekend, they won’t be back in action until next Saturday fortnight, against Waterford back in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
For Walsh the lesson on how to proceed are obvious.
“We know ourselves that if we work hard and do our job, we’ll be there or thereabouts. At the end of the day, any fella can have an off day but nobody stops you from working hard, nobody stops you from running.
“You mightn’t get the first ball; you mightn’t get the second ball but if you keep showing, keep working, the breaks will go for you. The first two or three balls - I missed them but you keep plugging away and you have fellas around you encouraging each other.”