APART FROM a one-off appearance against Waterford in 2007, before this summer Anthony Nash spent his time on the Cork panel as close to the crowd as the first 15.
Battling it out with Martin Coleman for the role as back-up to Donal Óg Cusack, Nash’s elevation to the number one slot has been surreal. Cusack’s Achilles injury gave him an opportunity to come on in the league semi-final victory over Tipp, but then Coleman was picked ahead of him in the decider against Kilkenny.
When Coleman struggled against the Cats though, Nash seized his chance to start against Tipp last month and on Saturday night he enjoyed his first championship win as Rebel keeper. The Kanturk man savoured the occasion, even if Cork were far from flawless, and he hopes they can do the Rebel supporters justice from here on.
“The Cork supporters in my opinion are the best, obviously I’m biased, but look at the crowd that turned out. We love the support. To run out in front of the crowd we got against Tipp made the hairs stand up on my neck.
“There was another fantastic crowd for Offaly and hopefully they’ll keep following us for the year. It was great to get a home venue, but obvious we’ve a neutral venue the next day, we’ve to travel and it’s going to be tougher.”
Nash was assured throughout, even if Offaly pilfered two goals, with his apprenticeship under Cusack standing him in good stead.
“I thought nerves might be kicking in but they weren’t; I can look out and see the backs I have in front of me and that helps. The conditions were warm for both teams and that’s what we’re training all year for, and the weather brought the crowd out.”
A balmy evening by the Lee helped of course.
“I was checking the weather forecast all week on the iPhone and it said rain, rain, rain, so it great to get a decent evening. Golfing at the Old Head of Kinsale would have nice on a night like this!”
The 27-year-old insists there was no complacency on Saturday night, even if Cork didn’t pull away until the final quarter, helped by Nash’s two pointed frees from distance.
“Offaly are a serious team, no matter what people were saying all week and we’re going to be under no illusions next week. It’s always going to be tough in the back-door, that’s why it’s there, from this stage on they’re all good teams.
“You’re always on the tips of your toes, especially when you’ve top-class goalkeepers like Martin (Coleman) and Darren (McCarthy) pushing you on. With the frees I’ve been told to keep them in play, so I might just have been hitting them too hard by accident! No, they went over, but another night they don’t.”
Nash hopes to hold onto the hooped geansaí for another few games at least. That means making the business end of the championship in August. Integral to Cork’s chances of doing that are Patrick Horgan. Captain at the age of 24 by virtue of Donal Óg’s injury, he’s racked up 1-20 in two matches, and his first-half goal with his side trailing by four was a crucial strike.
He could have had two more – with an effort from play deflected out for a 65 and a penalty blocked. Luke O’Farrell and Cian McCarthy also went for goals and it was a conscious decision from the Rebels to raise green flags, after they failed to do so in the loss to Tipp.
“At different stages in the game forwards are going to beat their man, get inside and if you’re through you have to look at scoring goals, or finding a free man. We’ve been getting chances and tipping them over so we’re trying to go for more goals.
“After they got their two goals we managed to come back and hit a few points and that was important too.”
Horgan was impressed by the contributions of two rookies – Christopher Joyce and Stephen Moylan – who hadn’t featured in the league.
“Joycie was flying there at the end in centre-back and Moylan came on and got two points from the corner flag, so we couldn’t be asking for any more.”
While next weekend represents another step up, Horgan insisted that Offaly were a decent test of the Rebels, and deserve respect.
“They’re as physical as anyone, and are good hurlers as anyone – you saw how good they were in the air – so we’re just delighted to move forward towards next week.
We’ll be back training Tuesday, but we’ll take it easy, that was a hard game. We’ll do a bit of light training, chill out, but get ready for a massive battle next weekend.”