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Friday, June 2, 2023

Cork’s 2019 win over Limerick stands out for Daniel Kearney

WHILE the circumstances aren’t exactly the same as tomorrow, Cork’s visit to Limerick four years ago was close to must-win.

Having lost at home to Tipperary in their Munster SHC opener, John Meyler’s side faced a tough task in travelling to face the All-Ireland champions at the Gaelic Grounds but they performed brilliantly to come away with a 1-26 to 1-19 win. In Cork Hurling: Game of My Life, Daniel Kearney – who starred that day – chose it as the match that meant the most to him.

“We were going into 2019 with an eight-game unbeaten record in the Munster championship,” he said.

“Tipperary had regrouped and brought back Liam Sheedy as manager and they were of a good age and they had good experience. 

They were very hungry and they just blew us out of the water, really.

“In the old back-door system, there might have been a few weeks to regroup before the qualifier match after losing in Munster but in the round-robin you just had to dust yourself down to go again and I think that there are positives and negatives to that, but the good outweighs the bad.


“You have to decompress straightaway and rebuilding the confidence, individually and as a group, can be very hard. Then, at the same time, that challenge gives you the opportunity to make wrongs right and use the next match as a chance to prove yourself. That’s what’s brilliant about the new system.”

With time of the essence in turning around for the trip to the Ennis Road, the Cork management had to plan well.

“I remember that week, going to Brookfield, down by UCC, where we used to do our recovery – physical but also mental in terms of recapping the game,” Kearney said.

“We were back in on the Monday to do the pool-work and the stretching, making sure the bodies were right to go again the following week, and then there was the breaking down of the Tipp game to allow us to go straight into planning for Limerick.

“It’s all very quick and urgent but maybe there’s a value in not being able to give them so much time and so much respect – sometimes, you’ve too much time to focus on the opposition and that can be a bad thing.

“With the turnaround, there’s no time to be killing fellas’ confidence – it’s the opposite, you need to be building fellas up, and that’s where the dynamic of a good management team comes in, with John Meyler, Kieran Murphy and Donal O’Mahony, fellas who had been around the block and done it before. Their skills kick in in terms of how to get players to bounce back, get the confidence up and produce the optimal performance next time.”

They certainly did that.

“Limerick hadn’t played in the first round of fixtures, so this was their first championship match as All-Ireland champions,” Kearney said.

“There was expectation and pressure on them as well and, to be fair, they didn’t have a bad game but I think we really played to our full strengths.

I ended up with four points from play – Aidan Walsh was coming out as a disruptive half-forward and I was moving into his area. 

“We were just playing really well as a team on that day, there was good movement and good inter-play.

“If you take Limerick as an example, their half-back line played zonally so it gave me that opportunity to be a bit freer. Our full-forward line was picked up and they had half-backs sweeping as well as trying to watch their own men. That meant someone like Hoggy maybe wasn’t getting as much clean ball into him, but it gave me more opportunity out the field.”

Patrick Horgan celebrates his goal for Cork against Limerick in 2019. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie
Patrick Horgan celebrates his goal for Cork against Limerick in 2019. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie

It’s somewhat bittersweet that that win was the high point of a Cork year that ended with All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kilkenny, but it remains a strong memory.

“When you play with Cork, there’s a lot of pride that comes with the jersey,” Kearney said, “and you’re always aware of the responsibility that you have and your ability to impact people’s moods around the county.

“When you lose and play poorly, you carry that sense of hurt and pain and you want to make it right. That day, we did that.

“I remember reading Richie McCaw say that what he missed most after retirement were the moments after a game in the dressing room with the group and it’s true of sport at all levels. Winning a game where your backs are against the wall is something you treasure, that sense of camaraderie and achievement where you play to your potential and put in a performance.

“Then, when you exit the stadium, you’re on to the next day. You’re trying to take the confidence from the result but remove the complacency that comes with winning. Sometimes, finding that balance can be tricky, but the memories of a win like that one over Limerick stay with you.”

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