It’s now been ten years since the Cork hurlers last tasted All-Ireland glory. After yesterday’s performance, it looks likely that it will be another while before Liam returns to Leeside.
Here, we take a look at the substantial difference in quality between the current team of 2015 and the All-Ireland-winning team of 2005.
Anthony Nash vs Dónal Óg Cusack
Since 2013, Anthony Nash has struggled for form. Both keepers were capable of pulling of super saves but it’s Cusack’s precise and accurate puck-outs which give him the nod in goal.
2005: 1 2015: 0
Shane O’Neill, Brian Murphy, Stephen McDonnell vs Brian Murphy, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Pat Mulcahy
Shane O’Neill and Brian Murphy are both fantastic corner-backs. O’Neill in his prime was a match for Murphy but the Bishopstown man has lost a yard of pace since and we give the nod to Brian Murphy of 2005.
Since the departure of O’Sullivan, Cork have struggled massively at full-back. No one filled the hole left by ”The Rock” and despite Brian Murphy’s best efforts this year, he is not a natural full-back.
At left corner-back, Stephen McDonnell is a fine player but as a defensive unit yesterday, Cork malfunctioned and as a result, the Glen Rovers man suffered. Mulcahy was the weakest link in a fantastic Cork back-line.
2005: 2 2015: 1
Aidan Walsh, Mark Ellis, Cormac Murphy vs John Gardiner, Ronan Curran, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín.
Aidan Walsh has not proven himself as a top class inter-county hurler since making the decision to join up with JBM’s squad two seasons ago. On the other hand, John Gardiner was a superb wing-back who dominated many a game from right half-back.
Mark Ellis showed promise while utilised in a sweeper role in the qualifiers but yesterday, the Millstreet man made some costly errors, something Ronan Curran never did.
On the other wing, despite Cormac Murphy’s promising debut season, there’s only one winner. A natural athlete, Seán Óg had it all.
2005: 3 2015: 0
Damien Cahalane, Daniel Kearney vs Tom Kenny and Jerry O’Connor
Cahalane didn’t play here as Cork used an extra man at the back but it doesn’t really matter who you put here as Tom and Jerry would have the beating of any midfield pairing in the country.
Both Kenny and O’Connor were simply sublime. Their link-up play and constant running ws critical in Cork’s short passing game. Honourable mention must go to Daniel Kearney who was one of the few Cork players who stood up and was counted yesterday.
2005: 2 2015: 0
Brian Lawton, Patrick Cronin, Bill Cooper vs Kieran Murphy, Niall McCarthy, Timmy McCarthy
Kieran Murphy never got the credit he was due. A superb work-horse who was a key part of Cork’s success. For the 2015 side, Brian Lawton had a promising year but the Castlemartyr man was physically outmuscled yesterday.
Niall McCarthy is a player that the current crop of Cork hurlers need immensely. His passion and heart along with clean ball-winning ability is what the rebels lack in large proportions.
Bill Cooper is a very similiar player to Timmy McCarthy in the sense that both have huge work-rates and not much scoring fire-power. Cooper can’t be faulted for his efforts yesterday.
2005: 2 1/2 2015: 1/2
Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan vs Ben O’Connor, Brian Corcoran, Joe Deane
Conor Lehane has yet to deliver on his huge potential. The Midleton man has a tendency to go mising in games and it was no different yesterday. As for Ben O’Connor, he was a consistent class act.
Seamus Harnedy has been Cork’s best performer for the past two seasons and managed three points from play. Corcoran came out of retirement to win two All-Ireland medals as a forward and was superb in both years. We decided to halve the points here.
Finally, Patrick Horgan vs Joe Deane is another battle that was a close call but Joe Deane gets the nod. ‘Deano’ was a Cork hurling fan-favourite and rightly so.
2005: 2 1/2 2015: 1/2
The combined score is a shocking one. After counting up the scores, it finished 13-2 in favour of the 2005 side.
Physically much stronger and no doubt, a more skilled team, the 2005 side were comprehensively better than this year’s side.
This really underlines the problems facing Cork hurling. Jimmy Barry-Murphy built this team out of nothing. No underage success, whatsoever backbones this side. JBM has done as much as he can with this side and afterwards the Cork hurling icon admitted that Cork were simply not good enough.
“In fairness to the players, they tried their hearts out there but we just weren’t good enough. We were comprehensively outplayed all over the field.”
The Cork All-Ireland-winning sides of 2004 and 2005 were backboned by minor winning sides of 1998 and 2001 and an All-Ireland u-21-winning side of 1998.
Cork must start producing the goods again at underage level if they want to get back to the heights of the mid-noughties. Unfortunately for the Cork hurling public, it will be a while yet.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena