John Meyler turns sights on Cork's unfinished business
Impressive comeback leaves Cork in last four while Galway and Kilkenny must meet again
Cork’s Darragh Fitzgibbon tries to get away from Clare’s David McInerney and Seadna Morey at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Lohan
Two provincial finals in one afternoon and reaching for the old chalk and cheese to sum them up feels a little inadequate.
Probably better off going White Cliffs of Dover on one side and one of those monumental discs of Double Gloucester that English people of a certain mania roll down hills for sport on the other. Munster hurling and Leinster hurling. Same game, but different.
In Thurles, Cork and Clare played out one of those discombobulating bonanzas where it’s a tight call as to which is the greater skill – amassing the 48 scores we saw or keeping track of them all. Cork came out of it with the greater balance of them, picking up their second Munster title on the spin on a scoreline of 2-24 to 3-19.
Séamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan were immense. John Conlon was unplayable in the first half for Clare but was starved of ball after the break. It meant Cork could turn around an eight-point deficit either side of half-time and were more comfortable winners in the end than the two-point margin intimates.
“Really the game was in the last five minutes of the first half when we went eight points down and got it back to four,” said John Meyler afterwards. “That was critical – to go in four points down at half-time was critical and we had a few words to say at half-time.
“We are in an All-Ireland semi-final and we need to rectify what went on last year. That’s not acceptable what happened last year against Waterford and you know we will be emphasising that to the players. We have won a Munster championship; we are unbeaten in eight Munster championship matches. We now go to Croke Park in four weeks’ time and we need to step it up again and I have no doubt that we will because there was incredible character in those players out there today.
“When you go out of Croke Park after losing by 11 or 12 points or whatever we lost by last year, you can’t rectify that wrong. But we have an opportunity and a chance to rectify that now. We have to do it and that’s the bottom line. There is no looking back and saying we have won two Munsters in a row – that’s gone, it’s finished with. We’re in Croke Park in four weeks’ time and we must perform.”
Not in Croke Park next weekend, quirkily enough, will be either Kilkenny or Galway. The replay of their 0-18 to 0-18 Leinster final draw will take place in Thurles next Sunday, Croke Park being unavailable with Michael Bublé crooning his end of the rent of the hall.
Quite what Waterford reckon to the Leinster final being played in Thurles when they weren’t allowed to nominate Nowlan Park in Kilkenny as their home ground for the Munster championship is probably best kept for online.
Galway and Kilkenny have more immediate concerns. The All-Ireland champions were three points up as time ran down but couldn’t keep the league champions at bay. TJ Reid’s equaliser at the death bought Kilkenny another day out and ensured that whoever takes the Leinster title will have had to play six games to do so. Hard-won barely covers it.
“We knew coming in that it would be a battle and it was the same in Salthill,” said Micheál Donoghue. “We’ve the height of respect for them and they’ve quality players. They won the league and had massive wins in the championship and we were under no illusion [but] that they’d be a big challenge. People write them off and think they’re gone away but that’s not true and it’s evident in their performances.
“We knew they weren’t going to come here today and lie down. They worked as hard as we expected them to and it will be the same next week. I think for both teams this will bring them on and it will be another exciting encounter next week in Thurles.”