THE achievement of winning three All-Irelands at U-21 level and an All-Ireland senior title in five years “is phenomenal”, according to Cork selector Pat Hartnett.
The Midleton man, who helped Cork to championship glory in 1984 and 1986, argues that Clare has “a serious pool of talent” and “are big time favourites for Sunday’s game”.
Given Cork’s absence from the roll of honour in recent years, is there pressure on them to win this title? “There is no pressure in our view,” was the dentist’s response. “We played Clare a number of weeks ago behind closed doors. They are as good as we have met this year, they were scintillating on the night. They are big time favourites for Sunday. It’s up to management team to work with the tools they are given. Three All-Irelands in five years is phenomenal. Look, a blind man knows when the sun is shining,” he added.
Regarding the 2013 All-Ireland final, he noted it was a great match and a great replay. “It was a game that could have gone either way but there are so few from that team involved in the Cork team now that we can’t take anything from that. We have about two-thirds of a different panel,” he noted, stressing that Cork “are aware of what Clare are going to bring to the table. Their pace and movement really takes one’s breadth away”.
Cork’s record over Clare in provincial finals over the years might prove to be in the Rebel county’s favour. “The game is different now, the whole physical conditioning of people and the standard of hurling is high,” he countered. “The two teams are in this final on merit and they bring different strengths.”
“Teams will always get periods of dominance and they have to execute chances when they get those periods. It’s up to the management team to get the best out of what pool of talent they have. Clare are really formidable opponents, with a serious pool of talent and they have numerous options for different positions. We are well aware of the challenge we are facing,” he said.
When asked about the involvement of Cloyne clubmates and former Munster and All-Ireland medal-winners Diarmuid O’Sullivan (Cork) and Donal Óg Cusack (Clare) he said “the bottom line is that the game is about players and how they perform”.
He is looking forward to the game. “We played them recently behind closed doors and there was a full team out, which speaks volumes. We are well aware of what they bring to the table. We are absolutely under no illusions about what we are facing. Clare are raging hot favourites and anyone that would say otherwise, well they aren’t really seeing the game. Kelly is a joy to behold and they have Podge and Galvin. We know what we are facing.”
While he will be doing all he can to see that Clare return from Thurles empty-handed, he was supporting a Banner team last week. The Clare camogie team is captained by his niece Orlaith Duggan, while her sister Aoibhinn is also a member of the side.
While he helped to inflict disappointment on a number of Clare teams and followers over the years, Hartnett is able to recall the performances of many players of the ’70s and ’80s. He singled out Clarecastle’s John Callinan for special mention. “He was a magic player. It’s great to meet the lads we played against over the years. I have great memories of those games and there is still a connection there when we meet at games,” concluded the Cork man who played in eight Munster finals, including replays.
By Seamus Hayes sports editor