Whatever training manual Denis Walsh has been working off can he please send a copy to his old friends in Waterford, just for curiosity’s sake.
The manner in which Cork put the skids under Tipp on Leeside last Sunday reeled in the years. Aisake Ó hAilpín may be no Ray Cummins, and remains shy of what the more skilful Setanta could have become, but he’s going to be one hell of a handful for any full-back line on that form; his ability in the air certain to enter the equation at opposition selectors meetings from hereon in.
So much for the Rebels not being able to out-run/work teams anymore. Or score enough goals. Or combine the best of Donal O’Grady’s short game and – whisper it – Gerald McCarthy’s long. Fast and get hungry, be hungry and get fast. Cork are back as serious All-Ireland contenders. Indeed, Brian Cody will be a lot more wary after watching Sunday’s delayed game on the telly than he will have been coming away from Nowlan Park the previous evening, when Galway eventually pulled away from Colm Bonnar’s Wexford, who gave it their all – too much in a few cases – before being put away by the League champions.
Sunday’s result in Páirc Uí Chaoimh raises the prospect of a renewal of the great Waterford-Cork rivalry of the past decade – assuming, of course, the Decies can overcome Clare in Thurles on Monday (of which I’d be reasonably confident) and Cork take care of Limerick, which they will at a canter, despite Ger Canning’s assertion that Walsh’s men will need to “raise their game again” the next day. If they do the mother of all humiliations could await Justin McCarthy, and against his own kith and kin that would pain him like no other.
Speaking of conflicting loyalties, Waterford’s build-up to Monday’s bank holiday meeting with Davy Fitzgerald’s native county has been remarkably low key, and the banter won’t begin in earnest until the team is released, presumably on Friday. The wholesale experimentation during the Waterford Crystal Cup and National League has probably raised as many questions as it’s answered, with consistency an inevitable victim of the trial-and-error process. You could make a decent case for 20 or more making the cut, which is normally a plus, but where and when to use them is as unclear now (at least from the outside) as it was in January.
It’s likely that the Waterford team which starts will indicate a further shift away from former certainties, though as Cork showed, you can’t beat experience – or a cause to cling on to. Fitness and desire, not age, should be the only determining factors. The future is now.
The same self-obsessed sense of unity – and no little ego – that kept the Cork players together through the strikes is also what motivated them to knock Liam Sheedy’s Premier side off their perch. The other factor possibly being the doubts and consequent, subconscious dip in effort that possibly affected the Tipp players after they went flat out to usurp Kilkenny last year and still came up short. Being would-be successors is one thing; proving you’re worthy ones takes all the will in the world, though it would tempt fate to write Tipperary off. In fact this – and Babs’s predictable barbs – could be just what they need to refocus.
So June has just begun and already the pigeons have been put among the Cats. The message they’re carrying from Munster couldn’t be clearer.
P.S. Having long highlighted the dangerous shunting of players when they’re bending down to pick the sliotar, I wouldn’t have any complaints with the red cards John Sexton saw fit to issue on Noreside on Saturday night. With all players now wearing helmets (and still no names on jerseys), tacklers are visibly going in harder and higher. As far as I know they haven’t fitted neck braces to the chin straps yet.