Well, what can you say, on a scoreboard higher than Cork the McGrath Cup was nine points better than Waterford at Pierk Ui Rin on a January night, but actually the gap in the class was much greater than that.
The Rebels looked comfortable from the third to the 73rd minute as they kept a flexible, but totally over arm’s length away from Waterford, securing a credible 1-18 along the way.
While the difference in class between the sides was clear, perhaps the more important difference to me was the difference between Brian Hurley’s quality of the player and all his markers.
Hurley was sensational at night. Two out of two games this season and the Castlehaven man has shown himself to be back at what one might call his top form.
Brian Hurley is a player Cork has struggled to look his best at, partly because of form, but mainly because of some serious injuries that have disrupted his career over the years.
It now appears that new manager Keith Ricken has decided to make the most of the immensely talented forward, giving him the opportunity to open his back sides to the talent stakes.
1-6, Hurley was a contributor against Dees, but his all-round play, his willingness to work hard, and his ability to find space, create space, and capitalize on space, had much to Waterford’s defenders considering their football future. All will be
Tuesday’s win at Waterford, added to the success against Clare four days earlier, moved Cork to the McGrath Cup final with a showpiece game “hopefully” into the Saturday week according to manager Ricken – most likely at Killarney. .
“We’re hoping this Saturday will go into the week,” Riken told corkman After watching from his side from Waterford on Tuesday night.
“We are very aware of boys playing at the third level and one of the things we want to do is allow them to be students. Something with respect to their development in that age group and their social development emotionally and physically Terrible years.”
Ricken seems to be less interested in who manages and trains his players, and not just in seeing the same players get the game – a different approach to most of the managers around the game at the moment.
“It’s the first time in two years that Sigerson is happening and you need them to enjoy it. It’s a lovely opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.”
“And telling friends you can’t play Sigerson. We have inter-county managers telling boys they can’t play freshers hurling.
“They need to be with their peers to grow. That’s a very important part of it. It allows the boys to go to MTU last night.” [Wednesday] And there’s a rift with each other, and next week they have another game, and then they’re with us again. There’s another Cork inter-county team playing between MTU and UCC last night.
“For them, it is important for boys to be boys and for men to grow. You can do a lot of things, but you can’t speed up development. You have to go through this process and the third level is a great chance for them to play.
“This is high level football they want to play. It’s not like they want to go to a nightclub. And I think they are happy boys and happy men and that makes happy players. They go hand in hand.
“I, as most managers think no one can do [train] Better player than me. We are all guilty of this, but really the most important thing we can do for these players is to let them play. We know you learn more from a sport than from training, so I’m happy to let him play.”
Ricken County is striving to bring an inclusive culture to teams that includes some of the younger grades in the senior side’s activities.
“Sunday morning, we have senior boys, under 20s and minors at the same time.
“Little boys feel involved in the process and they can see the big boys – they can strive to be the big boys.
“The coaches also get a chance to chat and catch up – I think that’s the kind of culture we need. We all want the same thing here and that is for Cork to be successful.
“That’s the main goal. I want young players to enjoy playing for Cork, a winning Cork, and hopefully that will be the case and will continue to do so in the future.”
So, after looking at Cork and seeing some of the young boys Ricken wants to bring in, what can we say about Cork going into the finals of this early season competition.
Well, first and foremost, Cork has two wins out of two and that in itself is a positive. Cork looked both at Waterford and with relative ease and brought through several players who may or may not be well into the future in red and white – only time will tell on that front.
Riken seems content to offer young players the opportunity to play every sport that includes games for their colleges – something that the Cork Manager is very happy to accommodate.
This approach should see a rush of players as the opening season could well progress into what is likely to be a challenging National League side for the Division 2 side.
Talk last Tuesday night and a host of young blood gets a chance to impress in blood and bandage in front of 400 or more paying guests.
Waterford was never likely to be the biggest challenges for this current crop of Cork players, but the intensity with which Corks started the game, the speed at which they remained under pressure throughout and the fact that despite a raft of changes to the side pressed all the way to the end are all signs that Ricken’s reign is fine and is indeed underway.
Hurling fans may be a little disappointed to see young star Jack Kahlane lined up for county footballers, but as time goes on we’ll get an idea of where the young man’s loyalties lie.
From North Cork’s point of view it was positive to see that the quality players of Matty Taylor were doing well into the night playing 70+ minutes with Paudie Allen of Newmarket, Sean Meehan of Kischem and Colin Walsh of Konturk.
Riken is currently at knockout with around 60 players, the list of which will surely be exhausted in the coming weeks. There are still some seasoned pros yet to return, but so far the managers will certainly be happy with their many.
Cork will try to move on from here and perhaps, if the opportunity comes, take the Kerry side and hopefully have the fan side of many to clean house in 2022.
The McGrath Cup is, and will never be, a competition that ignites a season, although one remembers that Cork lost to Waterford in the same finale in 2015 – a year that went downhill for Cork from that point. And finally saw the end of his manager Brian Cuthbert – so thankfully not banana skins this week – Ricken would be grateful for that.
Cork will need to field some more experienced players next time if they want to win their first Silverware of the year and while few care about the outcome of this particular competition, it’s certainly better to win it than a Something to be affixed to the sides capable of raining on the parade of ricin.