CORK are within touching distance of a first Munster crown in three years after blowing local rivals Kerry away in the provincial semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.
Conor Counihan’s side never looked in any real trouble against a Kerry team described by Kingdom legend Pat Spillane as “one that has lost its way.”
Spillane openly questioned the hunger and desire of the Kerry players after their five point defeat, 0-17 to 0-12, but Cork boss Counihan was more impressed with his own team’s ability to see the job through.
Counihan told reporters after the game, “On some other days, we didn’t always show the same level of composure and it cost us. We tried to boss things as best we could today and it worked fairly well.
“Maybe it was the experience or the fact that we haven’t won a Munster championship in a number of years. But we’ve made no secret of the fact that we’d like to do that.
“The fact that Kerry were in our way meant that there was a job to be done.”
Clare are next up for Cork, and Counihan won’t take their challenge lightly.
“I’m ruling out no-one. The reality is we’re in a Munster final -- that’s our focus now,” he said.
“And if we could win the Munster championship that would be fantastic. That’s all we’re focused on now - and whatever happens after that happens.”
Cork goalkeeper Alan Quirke was praised by many observers for his overall performance and one particular save from Kieran Donaghy.
“Alan is a top class keeper. It isn’t today or yesterday we realized that. He probably hasn’t got a lot of the credit he deserves,” said Counihan.
Quirke was also keen to play down his role. Asked about the Donaghy save, he said, “He came in off his right and I was down on his boot. There were a few other defenders in his way so it was hard enough to get a shot off. As Billy Morgan always says, ‘That’s what I’m there for.’”
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor has challenged his team to bounce back from the defeat and prove they can still be All-Ireland contenders via the qualifiers.
“We think there’s still a fair bit left in this squad. We have to come back and look at it when they come back training,” he said.
“We’ll see. It depends on the attitude fellas come back with. The team will be written off but we’ve been down that road before. We feel that if the players keep believing, then they’ll be okay.”
CARLOW almost pulled off the shock of the year against Meath in their Leinster championship clash in Tullamore on Sunday with even Royals boss Seamus McEnaney happy to take a draw (1-12 to 1-12) and replay next Saturday.
Luke Dempsey’s Carlow were down to 13 men after two red cards when JJ Smith scored a late goal to earn them a draw in a game they could have won.
Meath were poor on the day and McEnaney admitted, “We were lucky to get the draw. Thankfully there was three points in the game and not two when they got their goal at the end.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult match as they prepared really well, with challenge games against Dublin and Cork. All I can say is that we’re still in the Leinster championship and we live to fight another day.”
Carlow boss Dempsey was full of praise for his team. “It’s only what the players deserve. We battled so hard. At the start of the second half we had chances that went a begging and I thought it was going to be one of those days that underdogs often have,” he said.
“To be proud of these lads is an understatement. Daniel St. Leger went off after the break and that was a blow for us, but we have 26 lads who have given huge commitment over the last few weeks. The subs that came made a huge difference.
“For the replay, it’s back to the drawing board for both teams. We don’t have huge resources in Carlow but we have plenty of spirit.”
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte paid tribute to Armagh forward Jamie Clarke as his team hung on for an Ulster SFC 0-19 to 1-13 win against the Orchard County at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday.
“Quality players cannot be stopped, they can only be contained to a degree. That is what we tried to do with Jamie,” said Harte.
“We tried to do that in as positive a fashion as we possibly could. It wasn’t a case of closing him out and sending two men on him.
“We tried to get a man to hold him up until the artillery arrived and helped him out. But Jamie Clarke is that type of talent. He doesn’t need that much space or that much room. That is what the game is all about. It is good to have people like him in the game.”
Armagh are destined for the All-Ireland qualifiers now, but manager Paddy O’Rourke was far from despondent after the Tyrone game.
O’Rourke said, “It’s all about building a team. There’s a lot of young players on that team, and if they want to move on, they have an opportunity to play in the qualifiers.”
The dismissal of Kevin Dyas and an injury to Aaron Kernan were major setbacks for Armagh on the day.
O’Rourke acknowledged, “Those things don’t help, but sometimes you can deal with those things, but it’s very difficult to play against Tyrone with 15 players.”
WEXFORD broke Longford hearts with a last gasp winner in their Leinster SFC replay in Tullamore after a game that had a bit of everything according to winning boss Jason Ryan. The final score was 1-13 to 0-15.
Longford led by three points late on but Wexford rallied and pulled the game out of the bag with a crucial late point from Redmond Barry.
“It is a relief to get a very important win,” said Ryan afterwards. “We haven’t won a game for a while, so it’s great to get a win there.
“It was great excitement. It was nail-biting stuff. And there was a big, big, big crowd here and they got value for money again.”
Longford boss Glenn Ryan was hurting when he spoke to reporters.
“It is very, very hard to take. I feel very bad for the lads,” said Ryan as his team suffered a first loss in 2012.
“I am not going to say it won’t take a lot to get the lads back, we will have to see during the week. We will feel sorry for ourselves for a few days and rightly so.
CLARE boss Micheal McDermott admitted he was a bag of nerves as his side held on for a 1-13 to 0-15 victory over Limerick in the Munster SFC semifinal on Saturday night.
David Tubridy secured a late winner to send Clare into a provincial final date with Cork and McDermott was delighted afterwards.
He said, “It was difficult, very, very difficult. The pressure of that last 10 minutes was phenomenal.
“Every sort of feeling is going through your body; are we going to lose it, are we going to get back to a draw for another day or are we going to win?”
Cork will be red hot favorites in the Munster final, and McDermott knows his team have work to do before that game.
He said. “We’ll make headlines this week, but the hard work will have to start again.”
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LONGFORD footballer Paul Barden and Laois hurler Willie Hyland have won their respective GPA/Opel Player of the Month awards for May . . .
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JERRY Wallace has quit as manager of the Antrim hurlers.