It was the game of the year so far in what has been the most exciting and unpredictable championship in recent memory. Brian Barry gives his thoughts on the epic served up in Croke Park by Cork and Dublin.
No beating around the bush here. The turning point in yesterday’s game was the sending off of Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer. Cork had gone in at half-time leading by a point, but the Dubs had started the second half stronger, and had built momentum and a lead of their own. The consensus in the ground was that Cork would be doing very well to weather this purple patch. O’Dwyer rushed into a challenge, and yes it was a yellow card. Question marks remain over his first foul, but it is in the back of a player’s mind who has been booked and shouldn’t have been so eager to shoulder the second time. This was the Tipperary native’s fourth red card in his three years in Dublin colours. With such a track record in mind, perhaps Anthony Daly should have pull him aside earlier to prevent the possibility of his charges finishing the game with 14 men.
However, if O’Dwyer considered himself unlucky to have been sent from the pitch, Liam Rushe was most definitely fortunate to stay, having needlessly lashed out at Patrick Horgan. Referee James Owens was not Mr Popular with the crowd on Hill 16 already at that point, and sending off their talisman would not have helped his cause. The rules clearly dictate that Rushe had to go. Owens had seen the incident, given the free, and taken his time on the decision. Essentially, he ‘bottled it.’ Would Rushe have walked were it not for O’Dwyer’s red card? Without doubt.
Nothing can be taken away from Cork’s performance. Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side have improved in every game in this year’s championship. They showed real signs of champions. The Rebels have not relied on any one player throughout the year. Seamus Harnedy and Horgan did all the damage against Kilkenny, but it was Midelton duo Luke O’Farrell and Conor Lehane who made a big impact on the scoreboard yesterday, and Lorcán McLoughlin put in an immense showing in midfield. Lehane really stood up and was counted yesterday having failed to produce on the championship stage since bursting onto the scene in last year’s league. An impressive showing in UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup triumph suggested that this was going to be a big year for the student, but he was frustrated in Cork’s games up to this. He scored three impressive points from play yesterday and whoever emerges from the other semi-final will be keeping a close eye on him on the 8th of September.
For Dublin, it is hard to know where to go from here. Whether or not Daly has taken them as far as he can is a decision for him alone. The County Board will give him the chance if he decides to stay on. Having captured the Bob O’Keeffe Cup for the first time since 1961 and secured promotion to Division 1A of the league, 2013 will be viewed a success, and a year of progress for Dublin, just like 2009 and 2011. But from here, Liam McCarthy must be viewed as an essential guest in the capital in coming winters. Daly’s young team have come of age this year, and cannot afford a blip on the radar in 2014, like they did in 2010 and 2012, where they ran out of steam in the qualifiers following major defeats at the hands of Kilkenny.
Another thing which must be credited to this team is that they have drawn a large support base from the capital. Hill 16 was full of hurling supporters on Sunday, and although the result did not go their way, a chorus of ‘Come on You Boys in Blue’ rang out from the terrace after the full-time whistle. The Cork fans also traveled big and made their voices heard, which made for a serious atmosphere in a game which will go down as one of the greats.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy has guided Cork back to the All-Ireland final in his second year in charge. Few would have believed it this time 18 months ago. He has made some hard calls, dropping many of the old guard, and has come in for some criticism. But JBM knows that results speak for themselves, and feels his young side still have more in reserve facing into their September showdown. They have faced both Clare and Limerick already in this championship, having beaten the Banner and they feel that they had the measure of the Treaty before Pat Horgan’s red card in the Munster Final. The Rebels will fancy themselves to deliver Liam McCarthy back to Leeside for the first time since 2005, and judging by yesterday’s performance, it would take a brave man to back against them.
Sport Is Everything. Brian Barry.
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