For a team so often overlooked in the conversation for possible All-Ireland winning candidates, they’ve been the most consistent team within Munster borders for the past two years, and such a degree of consistency within such a competitive ring, you’d assume they would have earned much more respect by now.
And yet, as they go in search of their third consecutive Munster title, having navigated last year’s inaugural round-robin format without a blemish, they seem to be floating ever so slightly under the radar.
Which is odd, when you consider they have been strengthened from 2018 and not the other way around. With the return of Alan Cadogan to the fold, as well as the mercurial Aidan Walsh, Cork have added bags of experience, class and sturdiness to a team already capable of the big Munster days out. The addition of the extremely talented Declan Dalton has given John Meyler a bit of a selection headache in attacking positions, as he wonders how to wedge such an array of prolific score takers around his core of Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy.
To take Horgan as a case study into Cork GAA, he too has often been overlooked, often ashamedly so. Aside from Joe Canning, no currently active player has scored my points. He’s clutch on frees, impactful when the ball is in his grip, and has a deft scoring touch from every corner of the field. If the GAA public can overlook such an elite talent, is it any wonder it’s so easy to skim past the Rebels when you can talk about this exciting Limerick side, Galway and their massive panel, or the old reliables in Tipp and Kilkenny.
If Cork can overcome their old rivals Tipperary this weekend, that will set them up for another powerful run at Munster glory. They’ve been afforded a nice two game, break, two game schedule, with a trip to Limerick and a visit from Waterford book-ending their weekend off. That’s followed up with a difficult trip to Cusack Park, although Cork have had the Bannermen’s number the past few years. This fixture will likely make or break each county’s provincial campaigns on the last weekend of action.
And who’d bet against this side, as they go in hunt for three-in-a-row? There’s talent in spades, most notably the dynamic duo of Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon, the UCC pair which have lit up fields all over the country in their relatively short careers. The speed at which they run with the ball is often unmarkable, running from deep and splitting defences open, moving the ball sharply around with their supporting cast in blistering fashion.
It’s a playing style that might frustrate a portion of old-school hurling fans, but Cork’s execution is superb and has obliterated the likes of Tipp and Clare in the past couple of seasons. If the ball is slow and the touch isn’t at it’s best, Cork now have options inside to launch balls into to mix things up. If they can harness a solid dual threat between their speed and size, Cork can go a long way to emulating what Limerick did so efficiently last year.
Three Munster crowns in a row is a monumental task, but Cork have all the pieces in place to go all the way once again this year. Talent in spades, a favourable schedule, and the nous of having been there and done that in each of the past two seasons. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Rebels lift the cup once more.
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