With the National Football and Hurling Leagues done and dusted for another year, the 2014 Championship is every county’s focus. John Ivory takes a look at the Munster teams and evaluates each county’s chances in both codes for the coming year in the Province. This week he looks at Cork.
Manager: Brian Cuthbert
Cork enjoyed an impressive League campaign in the round robin stages, topping Division 1 with 11 points, losing only once. They defeated Westmeath, Kildare, Dublin and Derry in their opening four outings, setting dizzyingly high standards for other teams to aspire to.
A narrow loss to Mayo, coupled with a draw against Tyrone then saw the Rebels stutter slightly, but they regained form with a resounding ten-point victory over arch-rivals Kerry. Their league campaign finished in a whimpering seven-point defeat at the hands of Dublin in the semi-finals.
There is no doubt Cuthbert will have been troubled by the second half implosion that saw them lose a ten-point half-time lead. He will be hoping that when his charges take the field against either, Limerick or Tipperary in the Munster semi-final, they will have recaptured their early league form. Brian Hurley had an impressive spring, notching up 1-30 and Cork will need to keeping players like Shields, Goold, Cadogan and Kerrigan fit to mount a solid challenge for honours this season. The seeding system in Munster has made a Cork v Kerry final more likely, and Cuthbert’s Cork will never fear their neighbours on Munster final day, should it come about.
Manager: Jimmy Barry Murphy
Cork’s hurlers also topped their grade in the 2014 League, clinching promotion from Division 1B. They completed the round robin section undefeated, only a draw with fellow promotion chasers Limerick would deprive them of a 100% record. Nonetheless, wins over Laois, Offaly, Antrim and Wexford saw them book a quarter-final slot against Tipperary. A goal-laden affair saw JBM’s men lose out by just three points.
Cork’s main objective so far would have been promotion, and with that secured, they will have garnered confidence from the habit of winning. Last year’s beaten Munster finalists will fancy themselves against a relegated Waterford side. Cork have an experienced team, most of whom have lined out in Croke Park on All–Ireland Final day and Sunday will see three debutants take the field in Mark Ellis, Aidan Walsh and Alan Cadogan.
They have the looks of a strong squad with 11 players from the All-Ireland replay loss to Clare starting against Waterford. Key men for Cork this year will be Nash, O’Neill, Cronin, Harnedy and Horgan. Provided they overcome the Déise, Cork would face Clare in a semi-final. Predicting that outcome and ones beyond that is anyone’s guess in the wide open Munster Hurling Championship.
John Ivory, Pundit Arena