HIS RETURN TO championship action as a senior inter-county manager was not a successful one. Yet while there was a clear sense of disappointment in the demeanor of Jimmy Barry-Murphy after yesterday’s Munster semi-final, there was also a recognition that the standard of performance his Cork players produced can fuel hopes of better days lying ahead. After the nightmare that was the Division 1 league final loss to Kilkenny, this was a far more heartening day for the Rebels.
“We needed that because the League final was an absolute debacle for us,” Barry-Murphy told TheScore.ie in Páirc Uí Chaoimh after yesterday’s encounter. “It was a learning experience for us on the line as well and we took the major share of the blame because we felt we hadn’t prepared the players properly for the challenges that Kilkenny would give.
“I’m thrilled with the response. They showed great character and great courage to play in front of their own supporters and put up a great show. We didn’t win and we’re never happy to lose, but to come back from the League final they were fantastic today. When I took over this job Tipperary and Kilkenny were the landmark and we all know how far ahead of the rest they had gone over a number of years. It’s a long road for us and we’re just trying to match that.”
Tipperary’s standing in the national hurling hierarchy is currently higher than Cork’s and that stems from their run of All-Ireland final appearances in recent years. The level of experience they have gained from those big games was invaluable during the tight and tense finale to this clash.
“The bit of inexperience counted against us in the end but I think we’re moving in the right direction,” admitted Barry-Murphy. “We had opportunities and didn’t take them. Fair play to Tipperary, they just about deserved it on the day. There were opportunities certainly. We have been encouraging our players to go for goals when they get the chances so there are no criticism of them there.
“They took points when they were going for goal on occasion, but that’s the way it is. It was disappointing to lose when we had an extra man. But we’re trying to bring on young players here and develop them. I thought they showed great character today, and the older players were outstanding as well..”
On a day when the point-scoring on both sides was outstanding, Noel McGrath’s strike to the net for the only goal of the game was second-half. Barry-Murphy felt his side should have been awarded a free at the opposite end in the build-up to that score and also questioned the Cork goal that was disallowed in the first-half. Yet ultimately he did not believe the officials decisions had altered the course of the match.
“The disallowed goal was certainly a major factor. We could have gone in with a five-point lead having played with the wind. I just couldn’t see why it was disallowed. We contested a ball in the square and it went in, but to be fair to the referee I couldn’t see it. We take it on the chin and move on. And certainly at that stage in the second-half we wanted a free and it was definite. The player wasn’t gone away and I can’t believe he didn’t give a free. I’m not blaming the referee, these things happen. In fairness to Tipperary, Noel McGrath finished the chance clinically. I hope we learn from that and when we get those opportunities.that we take them.”
Now the qualifiers route beckons for Cork. It is new territory for Barry-Murphy as he prepares for a tie on July 7th.
“They’re a tough route to go, I’ve never been down that route as player or manager, and it’s new to me. Our job now will be to pick up our players after the defeat today, which can be quite shattering. It’s a difficult route for everyone – no one wants to be chasing it that way. It is going to be a very difficult game for us and we’re in no position to be over-confident against anyone. We face into the game with trepidation.”