Cork's hurlers pulled off the first shock of the summer when they destroyed Munster champions Tipperary at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday – but the 3-15 to 0-14 win came as no surprise to manager Denis Walsh.
After two seasons ravaged by strikes, Cork finally got a decent crack at the championship last weekend and made the most of it with a fully deserved win that condemns Tipp to the All-Ireland qualifiers.
“I don’t think we had doubts. We knew those guys would do the business today,” said Walsh after a man of the match performance from Aisake O hAilpin as he silenced the critics.
“What was the criticism about with Aisake? He was out of hurling for a long time. It’s a situation that we’ve gone through several times, it’s a team game,” added Walsh.
“If we didn’t think he had a contribution to make, we’d plenty good players on the bench to do the business. We as a management weren’t playing him to put two fingers up to anyone else. We felt he was going to bring something to the team today.
“We needed that. We know very genuinely that he is capable with his fitness and physique.”
Troubled Limerick are next up for Cork, and Walsh will demand the same efforts in the semifinal.
“The challenge for them is to repeat it when they go again against Limerick,” said Walsh.
“It will be a completely different ball game then because they won’t be as familiar with the Limerick players. Can they rise it again? That’s always the challenge at this time of the year. Knowing those guys, they are very self motivated.”
Cork goalie Donal Og Cusack believes Tipperary will bounce back via the back door and will still be a major pace in this season’s All-Ireland championship.
“That was very important to us as men, very important to us as hurling people and very important to us as a team,” declared Cusack after Cork’s win.
Cusack also hit out at suggestions he had criticized Tipp in his recent book and added, “A lot of your colleagues tend to use those things out of context. I’m a Cork hurling man but since I’ve been very young I’ve been told that Tipperary were hurling people and grew up on stories of Cork and Tipp.
“I always respected Tipperary as a hurling county. Tipperary is a hurling place and a proud place and, like Cork, they’ll find a way back.”
Tipp were caught cold by a clinical Cork display, but manager Liam Sheedy had no problems with his team’s 10 point defeat, the first time they’ve lost to the Rebels in three years.
“They created numerous goal chances and wanted it more all over the field. We were overrun today, outplayed. All credit to Cork. We felt coming down that preparation had gone really well. We never really got firing,” said Sheedy.
GALWAY proved too strong for Wexford in their opening Leinster SHC clash on Saturday night with a 2-22 to 0-14 win, but manager John McIntyre was upset with referee John Sexton.
The match official sent off three players in total, but his decision to dismiss Andy Smith really irked McIntyre.
“Andy Smith’s sending off has tarnished the game from our perspective. I believe Andy has been penalized for his total commitment,” blasted the Galway boss.
“We are trying to get Galway to play a more aggressive style of hurling and to lay their bodies on the line. Andy Smith is one of those players and I think it is an unfortunate stain on his character.
“In fairness, the two Wexford players, David Redmond and Diarmuid Lyng, didn’t deserve to go either. You have to ask the question -- what is the difference between a fella taking the head of a player and getting a red card and a fella maybe being just over enthusiastic in the tackle?”
Wexford manager Colm Bonnar saw his side lose by 11 points but felt the scoreline flattered the westerners.
“We came up here to win it and I don’t think that we deserved to lose it by 11 points,” said Bonnar.
“With 14 minutes to go, there was three points in it and we had an extra man and we should have used it better, but unfortunately we allowed them back in for a soft goal and that changed the complexion.”
BENNY Coulter was the hero after Down’s narrow extra-time win (2-10 to 1-15) over Donegal in the Ulster SFC clash at Ballybofey after he scored the winning goal three minutes from time.
“I am not sure if there are enough superlatives words in the dictionary to describe Benny’s contribution,” said Down manager James McCartan afterwards.
“He had a truly outstanding performance, but Benny does not want to be remembered for outstanding displays in Ballybofey -- he wants to be remembered for outstanding performances in Ulster finals in Clones and All-Ireland finals in Croke Park.”
Asked about the game, McCartan added, “This match could have gone either way, so let’s not get too carried away with things -- there is still a lot of work to be done. It was a pretty hectic game of football and it was pretty hard on the nerves.”