TO MAKE an impact on the All-Ireland series, the Cork hurlers are going to have to start taking their goal chances.
They fell short against Tipperary for the second year running despite out-pointing them. Their last major championship victory in 2010, over Tipp, was courtesy of three goals.
Patrick Horgan nailed two opportunities into the Blackrock End that day, and he’s acutely aware of the fact the Rebels need to start raising more green flags.
“You have to be getting goals. We’re getting a serious amount of points, 24 against Tipp and to lose is unreal, but we’ll have to start getting goals.”
Horgan plays his 20th championship match this Saturday against Offaly and has already wracked up seven goals, which compares favourably with his predecessors Joe Deane (10 goals in 50 games) and Ben O’Connor (eight goals in 58).
“We got two chances against Tipp and we didn’t take them, and then we’d the one disallowed as well. We get chances all the time for goals. For some reason they won’t go in for us, but if one goes in…”
Offaly beware, Cork took their frustration out against Laois to the tune of 10 goals in last season’s qualifiers. Rebel captain Horgan has warned that his team-mates must be focused from the throw-in this weekend, in a contest that lacks the glamour of a showdown with Tipp.
“It’s easy to motivate yourself when there’s 35,000 down the Páirc. It’s going to be different against
Offaly. There will only be a small crowd, it’ll be quiet, they’re going to be well up for it so we’re going to have to play at our best.”
Horgan believes the increased competition in the squad will stand to Cork over the summer, and the management already have one big call to make for Saturday with centre-back Eoin Cadogan committed to the footballers, who take on Clare in Sunday’s Munster final.
“There’s more competition now than since I’ve come onto the panel. It’s hard to pick the team.
“Eoin is going to be a loss, he’s going playing football, but still, when you come down training the panel is hopping. All three Na Piarsaigh lads are flying.
“There are another five or six backs that you’d be saying ‘why aren’t they playing’ and it’s the same with the forwards.”
At the ‘Centra Brighten up Your Day’ community event at Páirc Uí Rinn, last Saturday, Horgan — a Centra hurling ambassadors alongside Seán Óg Ó hAilpín — revealed the squad was “gutted” when they met up after the Tipp loss. And while they took positives from their performance, they weren’t content simply to have ‘put it up’ to the Munster champions.
“I heard a man on the radio saying ‘we would have taken being beaten by a point before it’ and I was like ‘what are you on about?’. We wanted to win. We’re well able to beat them and we’re well able to beat anyone if we play properly.”
In the background Kilkenny continue to cast a shadow across every other team. They mauled Cork in the league final, then repeated the dose against Dublin in the Leinster semi-final.
“People were saying playing in Laois, nice and tight pitch, it’ll suit Dublin. I thought it was going to suit Kilkenny more. They were saying Dublin are physical but Kilkenny are the most physical hurlers by a mile.
“Dublin didn’t deserve that, they’ve come on so much and they could still go further than you think.
“Kilkenny have an incredible intensity. You’d be looking around after five minutes and thinking ‘I can’t even breathe’. The last day against Tipp it was the same, the first couple of minutes were so fast we couldn’t even believe it.
“The league final… we shouldn’t have been beaten by that much at all. As bad as we played when you look back at it we’d a couple of goal chances.”
A rematch against the Cats is some distance off for the Rebels right now.
But to compound a difficult few days for Horgan, Glen Rovers were pipped by Bishopstown in a back-door County Senior Hurling Championship clash last Wednesday, sending them into round three against Cloyne. It’s last chance saloon or a relegation final against Bride Rovers or Blackrock that awaits them.
“It’s frustrating. With the conditions the other night against Bishopstown it was only going to be a point either way. We are a good team, we just have to get it right. If we lose we’re out of the championship now.
“We’ve a good 15, but the first day against the Barrs there was no excuse. The other night against Bishopstown they rain was unreal and you couldn’t even strike the ball, it wasn’t hurling.
“One win could get us going. It was the same two years ago, we were going very badly at the start of the year and we got one result against Bride Rovers which sparked it.”