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.