Yesterday, the Munster championship that has failed to excite in the past number of years produced a classic the hurling world had been crying out for as Cork defeated Tipperary. We take a look at three of the unsung heroes as the Cork hurlers triumphed.
During the week Cork’s leaders were called into question. Many had doubted some of the elder players. Two players who came in for more criticism than most were Conor Lehane and Patrick Horgan.
Both men passed the test with flying colours as they produced spectacular performances. This level of performance has always been in the slick pair of forwards lockers.
Yesterday however the pressure was on. Conor Lehane took over free-taking duty for the day. A shrewd move by Kieran Kingston as this kept Lehane involved in the game all day. Conor Lehane was truly spectacular and surely a candidate for man of the match.
While the switch worked for Lehane, it seemed to work even better for Horgan. With the pressure of free-taking released, Horgan could concentrate on the play. Terrorising John O’Keeffe all afternoon, Horgan silenced any criticism with an outstanding performance.
These men will be lauded all week, along with Cork’s baby-faced debutants. Three men who are less likely to come in for such praise however are what we will focus on here.
Let’s take a look at some of the unsung heroes for the Cork hurlers today.
Coming into this game, Cork’s full back line had been identified as The Rebel’s weak link. With Tipp’s lethal full-forward line, this was always going to be a monumental challenge. For Spillane, this would prove to be a daunting debut. The Castlelyons man was more than up to the task however, matched up with John McGrath, Spillane had a terrific 70 minutes. Yes, McGrath produced a spectacular goal, this happens.
Spillane’s contribution to this game will most likely be credited to his high-fielding display. However, one moment in the game stood out. Right after Cork had scored their crucial goal, John O’ Dwyer had his eyes fixed on the green flag, Spillane opted to do something none of the Cork hurlers have been doing in the last number of years. He simply pulled O’ Dwyer back by the jersey, conceded a free and a point was the outcome rather than three.
Of all the Cork forwards who will receive credit for yesterday’s performance, unusually, in comparison to other years, Harnedy’s name may not be at the top of the list. The St Ita’s clubman struggled in this year’s National League. His form appeared to have dipped, so yesterday was a huge game for Harnedy. His assist for Shane Kingston’s first goal was a crucial moment in Cork’s victory.
Harnedy worked his socks off for The Rebels and regained the form that made him an All-Star. Chipping in with both Cork’s first and final points from play, Harnedy contributed immensely to Cork’s ambush. Picking up a yellow card for a foul on James Barry in the first half, Harnedy harried and hassled the Tipp defence all afternoon. The Cork forward line would have seriously lacked in physicality without him.
The Timmy McCarthy of his generation, Cahalane has been under-appreciated within his county since joining the hurlers. Often the scape-goat, many doubted the St-Finbarr’s clubman’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Seamus Callanan.
Without the assitance of a sweeper, Cahalane was often left in one-on-one situations with the country’s most deadly forward. It must be said that Cahalane most certainly minimalised Callanan’s influence on the game. Damien Cahalane deserves praise after his performance.