Cork man up to take final step

For the third championship match involving Cork this year, a sending off becomes the seminal moment


Suddenly, with very little warning, the constant rebellion ignites once again.

Cork, average age 24, are heading back to hurling’s main event for the first time in seven long years having out-slogged and out-hurled Dublin, to a tune of 1-24 to 1-19, as the most fascinating hurling championships in modern times took yet another twist.

Another red card that may need rescinding. All that will do is leave Dublin with a familiarly bitter taste. For the third championship match involving Cork this year, a sending off became the seminal moment as Dublin centre forward Ryan O’Dwyer walked in the 49th minute.

“Let’s be honest, the sending off has to be the key factor,” admitted Cork’s legendary manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

“I’ve made a point that with fitness levels in the modern game the way they are, in Croke Park it’s very, very hard to sustain a challenge with 14 men because you just run out of options.

“We felt in the Munster final it was very hard on us.”

Impassioned plea
O’Dwyer, a Tipperary man by birth, made an impassioned plea with Wexford’s James Owen not to go to his pocket a second time.

A bloodied Lorcan McLoughlin had just been paved into the turf. Anthony Nash’s subsequent long range free – one of three points in another fine contribution from Cork’s latest goalkeeping icon – levelled matters up at 1-16 to 0-19.

Anthony Daly is not one for cribbing but the Dublin manager does always provide honest answers.

“The referee put himself under pressure with the first yellow,” said Daly of O’Dwyer’s caution in the second minute of play.

“The second one was a free and a yellow. I think Ryan would admit that straight away.

“But I was right beside the first one. I think it was Conor Lehane [it was Luke O’Farrell] and himself, shoulder on shoulder, how’s it a yellow card?

“I felt sorry for Ryan, I thought he had a tremendous match. He’s given us a great year. Do you get the yellow on reputation because you’ve been sent off before? There was nothing malicious in what he did for the first one.

“It’s hard on him. Big day and I assume his family are in the stand. Sure we saw it a couple of weeks ago with the greatest player we ever saw. That was rescinded. I hope the powers that be might have a look at that as well.”

Having seen Henry Shefflin dismissed last month, the large tranche of Cork people in the 62,092 crowd knew what would happen next.

Conor O’Sullivan became the free man in defence, covering, breaking, ruining Dublin’s direct attacking ploy.

Daly changed up, forcing men onto Cork but William Egan took on the mantle of cleaning up.

“Certainly the sending off was a break that we needed today,” said Barry-Murphy.

There was another moment that will always be the accompanying image for this fantastic contest. Dublin’s usually diligent goalkeeper, Gary Maguire, was humiliated by a brilliant piece of ingenuity from Cork’s chief hunter-gather.

Patrick Horgan, aka “the pick pocket”’ produced a moment of subtlety that Maguire will have to relive in his nightmares. It so rarely happens.

Pa Cronin dropped a ball in and as Maguire was seeking to ride the first belt and clear down field, as he has done over a thousand times before, the sliotar was stripped from his control, and in a split second nestled in the net.

Horgan, the man Cork struggled so desperately without in the Munster final defeat to Limerick, delivered their first goal of this year’s championship to make it a four point game.

Seven minutes remained. Dublin were in Kilkenny territory; trying to reel in Rebel hurlers, bursting with confidence, and an extra man.

Daly reacted, hauling off David Treacy then Dotsy O’Callaghan but an old failing crept back into their game. Paul Ryan posted two wides from scoreable frees.

Then, as he prepped for a free just over 20 metres out and to the left, Dublin selector Ciarán Hetherton arrived with a bottle of water. Shoot for goal was the brief instruction. The water bottle remaining full to its brim.

Nash saved. Cork cleared.

A moment later possession went to an unmarked Danny Sutcliffe near half way, wide on the left. Dublin’s outstanding player this summer, a man who landed four magnificent points yesterday, bungled the ball out of play.

And Dublin, with the winter blanket of being Leinster champions, but who finally seemed poised to rise from the embers of Kilkenny’s demise were gone.

Of course, Cork have broken free from the yoke of Kilkenny dominance to build their own dynasty many, many times before.

Every decade or so. Their last great team shined from 1999 until 2006. Maybe it’s that time again.

“At the start of this year I wasn’t thinking about an All-Ireland,” Barry-Murphy added. “I was thinking about surviving in the national league because after a long number of years without success we were trying to build up a team.

“I don’t think we are in bonus territory but we are delighted to be there and are certainly going to give it our best shot to win it. We are there now, why not?”

Average age 24. It feels like the start of something.