Nash insists Cork’s league approach no different to last year
Meyler’s experimental line-up unable to cope with nous and strength of Kilkenny
Cork’s Daniel Kearney and goalkeeper Anthony Nash following the defeat to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
In his now 15 seasons as Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash is certain of one thing; Cork go out to win every game, even in a league where there’s nothing to lose.
There were mixed feelings on that after Sunday’s opening round of the Allianz Hurling League. The agreed restructuring next year (the two top divisions being divided equally, rather than being seeded) means all the top teams can play without fear or danger of relegation.
Only the round-robin provincial championship coming down the tracks in May appear to carry any immediate weight.
Defeat to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park, 2-18 to 0-17, means Cork are already playing catch up on a quarter-final berth, as are Wexford, who also lost to Limerick and head down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh his Sunday. Whoever loses there will have even less to play for.
Still Nash insists Cork are treating this league campaign no differently to any other year – even if manager John Meyler, by necessity or design, fielded a large number of new players on Sunday.
“No, it’s absolutely the same thing,” said Nash, who turns 35 later this year, and first joined the Cork senior panel in 2005.
“We try and win every game, and obviously we came up to Kilkenny try and win. Firstly you try and build performances and stuff, and obviously you are going to try and go out and win first.
“Fellas are going to be disappointed, we are all looking after our own individual performances at this time of the year, and trying to build a team ethic. But there’s no difference whatsoever. We are training hard and we try to go out and win and we didn’t. It’s no different to last year when we tried the same thing.”
Whatever about winning, attitude always carries some weight in the league, and Kilkenny displayed more of that, getting a firm grip on Cork in the second half and never letting go; Nash admitted Cork did have room for improvement.
“It is very early days, we are not going to get overly concerned about it. What it does show is that we have an awful lot of work on. There’s always going to be mistakes in hurling at this time of year and stuff like that, and I thought our lads really just died in their boots out on the field.
“They tried really hard to the very end and that’s the most important thing – to show a bit of character at the start of the campaign. Coming up to Nowlan Park against Kilkenny, it was always going to be tough. There’s going to be positives but I suppose we have to look at the negatives and try and improve on them.”
There were positives. Cormac Murphy grabbed midfield with both hands, scoring four points from play; rising under-21 Declan Dalton also threw his size around, only to find himself mostly held by Kilkenny’s back six in the second half.
“I know it’s nearly February but Kilkenny are always tough to break down,” said Nash. “They are always a very well-drilled team, very physical, very strong and very honest.
“Look, we have a lot of work to do, we are well away from where we want to be but this time of year brings a lot of hard training and stuff like that, so it’s about trying to improve. We have Wexford now next down in the Páirc so hopefully we can work on the positives, drive them on and improve on the negatives.
Approaching 35, Nash is now the oldest player on the Cork panel but the two-time All-Star’s own appetite for winning games remains unquestioned.
“The body is grand, at this time of the year you are not going to be at the fitness levels of where you want to be, but the lads are working as hard. We trust an awful lot in them and they trust in us.
“Getting out hurling again is the biggest thing. Wexford are going to be hopping off the ground as well and they’ll come down with a lot of intent as well. It’s just trying to get performances strung together. We’ll go back training this week and hopefully get things a bit tighter and push on.”