Cork 2-18 Dublin 2-17 – National Hurling League

Cork: D. Og Cusack; B. Murphy; S.McDonnell; S. O’Neill; E. Cadogan; R. Cashman (W. Egan 0-1); J. Gardiner (D. Sweetnam); T. Kenny (McLoughlin); S. Og O hAilpin; C. Lehane (0-3); P. Cronin (1-3); C. Naughton (1-1); B. O’Connor (0-1; J. Coughlan); P. O’Sullivan (0-2); P. Horgan (0-7; 0-5f).

Dublin: G. Maguire; N. Corcoran; P. Schutte; R. Treanor; M. Carton; J. Boland (0-2); S. Durkin; J. McCaffrey (R. O’Carroll; E. Dillon); D. Sutcliffe (0-5); C. McCormack (D. O’Callaghan); R. O’Dwyer (1-0); S. Lambert (1-2); D. Treacy (A. McCrabbe); L. Rushe; P. Ryan (0-8; 0-4f).

Cork pilfered a lucky win today in Croke Park against an under-strength Dublin side. Down four points with ten minutes to go, Cork scraped victory thanks to a Pa Cronin goal and the performances of substitutes William Egan and Darren Sweetnam. Dublin – missing at least five starters including Keaney and Kelly – will feel hard done by as they dominated the second half with some hard trademark tackling and would have gotten a deserved draw if Paul Ryan hadn’t driven his extra time free wide. Considering the amount of players they were missing however their second half performance should be a confidence boost for their fans. Cork should also be happy with two victories out of two and some impressive performances from our young players in the closing ten minutes, although it will be the Kilkenny match that really tells us where we are.

For Dublin, there were many impressive performances. Danny Sutcliffe probably stood out most, getting 0-5 from play and dominating the midfield in the second half. Joey Boland was also excellent at center-back, scoring two long distance points and generally getting the better of Pa Cronin from general play (although Cronin did get the match winning goal). Elsewhere I thought Corcoran worked hard in the full-back line, Lambert was one of the few really excellent Dublin players in the first half before tiring towards the end of the game while Liam Rushe bullied Stephen McDonnell physically throughout. Finally, and although he missed some awful frees including one to equalise the game, Paul Ryan showed plenty of class on the ball and continues to be one of the more underrated forwards in hurling. In general, when Dublin upped the intensity in the second half, they dominated Cork, causing turnovers and forcing the Cork players backwards – if they get a few players back and play with similar intensity they should avoid relegation.

For Cork, it was overwhelmingly the young players that dragged us over the line. Lehane plucked 3-4 excellent balls out of the air and was deadly with his few scoring attempts – however Cork need to do a better job at getting him involved. Both Egan and Sweetnam played huge amounts of ball when they came on, the former catching a number of important overhead balls in the dying minutes and the latter looking a real natural in the wide spaces of Croke Park, being instrumental for example in Cronin’s goal. Likewise McLoughlin won some nice ball at half-back although his tendency to over-elaborate and strong running means he is in my opinion more suited to midfield. Elsewhere, Brian Murphy was very solid in the corner, Donal Og had a decent game (although it looked like Lambert’s goal could have been saved), Pa Cronin grabbed 1-3 outside of his best position while Padraig O’Sullivan did an excellent job of showing for the ball at full-forward, although it still seems clear that we need a physical presence to consistently win ball in the air near the box. Finally, Eoin Cadogan was steady throughout and Cork’s best player on show.

However the performances of Tom Kenny and John Gardiner should worry Barry-Murphy, neither offering much in the way of anything and both called ashore relatively early. Similarly, Sean Og won a lot of ball in the middle of the field but his short possession game seems just holds up the game and his man Sutcliffe was Dublin’s most influential player. One suspects Cashman lacks a little bit of class and pace for the half-back line, although it was a little surprising to see him taken off so quickly – most worrying is his tendency to get dispossessed so easily in bad positions, something that led to Lambert’s goal. Similarly Shan O’Neill was pretty poor, his first touch way off. Finally, some will say McDonnell  struggled badly on Rushe – to be honest, Rushe is a monster under the high ball, and McDonnell probably did as well as any other Cork player could have done on him. Hopefully McDonnell will continue to mature as a full-back, as we badly need Cadogan in the half-back line going forward.

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