The sending off of nine times All-Ireland medal winner, Henry Shefflin, was a huge boost to Cork in Sunday’s gripping All-Ireland hurling quarter-final.
The Leesiders had first hand experience of playing with 14 men having suffered the loss of a player in the defeat to Limerick in the Munster final recently, and they knew how difficult it would be for Kilkenny to survive afterwards.
“There is no use telling lies,” admitted lively attacker, Luke O’Farrell when he spoke to the press afterwards. “The sending off of Henry did gee us up. We knew it would hurt Kilkenny badly.
“We knew from the last day in the Munster final how hard it is to play with 14 men. It is almost impossible to survive. That incident galvanised our efforts. Sometimes a team can drop its effort in a situation like that, but we just drove it on. I think the Munster final experience was in the back of our minds and we continued to drive on as hard as we could.
“Henry is one of the best players ever to play the game. It was very sad to see a player like that going off. No one likes to see that happening.
“In the Munster final it happened to one of our top player, Patrick Horgan and we knew the difficulties it posed for a team. We knew we had a big chance after that. That was the way things worked out but we had to keep our wits about us right to the finish.”
O’Farrell admitted that beating a powerful team like Kilkenny who had won so much gave him one of the “best feelings ever”.
“Kilkenny are possibly the greatest team of all time,” he continued. “We didn’t get the rub of the green in the Munster final. Kilkenny didn’t get it today, but it is unbelievable to beat them.”
The young Cork players, he continued, have enjoyed good days and results in the past, but they then failed to grab silverware in finals. The big challenge now was to rise again, to work hard at improving for the semi-finals.
It would be no use beating champions Kilkenny if there was no follow up, he suggested.
Won’t get carried away
“We know you can’t get carried away,” Luke added. “We must improve. We have to look for the green flag a bit more. We are thrilled with this win though, and hopefully there is more, much more, in the season for us.”
For Cork free taker, Patrick Horgan, the last few weeks have brought good times and bad. There was the low of the sending off against Limerick. Then there was the high of Sunday’s sensational victory.
Cork knew they had a strong case when they appealed his sending off in the Munster final, and he was a key man on Sunday as he helped himself to 11 points and was involved in some daring moves as well.
“The worst thing was that we didn’t play well against Limerick,” he said of the effort of the Leesiders in the last match. “No one played well. Whatever happened, we were just flat.
“We came today and produced the performance we knew was in us. There is huge satisfaction in doing that. We just have to do it again in two week times.
“We were delighted with every aspect of our play today. We opened well. We coped when the pressure came on, and we got our fast flowing game going really well. It was a very good day for Cork huroling. The next two weeks will be about hard work too.”
O’Sullivan a hero
He singled out cute corner-back, Conor O’Sullivan, “the calmest man alive”, as the hero in defence for Cork. O’Sullivan was used as the extra man when Kilkenny were reduced to 14, and he acted as a sweeper in front of goalie Anthony Nash and behind the last line of defence. O’Sullivan starred.
“He was the perfect man for the job,” Patrick said of O’Sullivan. “He is ‘Mr Cool’. He did a brilliant job for us.
“This is turning out to be some championship. All the teams left in contention feel they can win. We feel that too. We showed against Kilkenny we are very able hurlers.”