Jamesie O’Connor: Cork can have a big say in the championship

Sky Sports analyst Jamesie O’Connor looks ahead to Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final between Cork and Kilkenny.

In all my time following hurling, I don’t ever remember a team scoring 40 points. But that’s exactly what the Rebels did in last weekend’s 1-40 to 0-20 win over Westmeath. That’s some shooting.

We saw last year that third spot isn’t a bad place to finish in Munster. You’ve a chance to build momentum, if you get over the quarter-final you then have two weeks to prepare for the All-Ireland semi-final.

But if there’s anyone who’s relishing a crack at Cork, it’s Kilkenny. The Munster side prefer a game where it’s fast and loose. But if a team is physical with them and aggressive, something Kilkenny do better than anyone else, will Cork be able to play their own game?

If it’s a shoot-out, there’s no doubt – Kilkenny won’t have the firepower to out-score them. But if it’s tight and physical and tough, Cork are made to fight tooth and nail for every score, it becomes a different story.

There will then be question marks about Cork. Can they win those types of games? Until they do, the jury is still out on them.

I still think Cork are going to have a big say in this year’s championship. I just think they have more firepower and depth up front, they have players who can come off the bench and score meaningful tallies.

Guys like Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy are match-winners. For me, it won’t be easy, and Kilkenny give you nothing – you have to earn everything. But I just think Cork will have too much for them.

A number of questions remain about the Cats ahead of Sunday.

How fit was Walter Walsh in the Leinster final? He certainly wasn’t at his best. Cillian Buckley didn’t play. Richie Hogan had minimal involvement.

These guys at 70 per cent can’t possibly give you what they offer at 100 per cent.

It took Buckley a long time to get into the game in Wexford Park. He obviously had some kind of a setback then because he didn’t play in the provincial decider.

Walter hasn’t been at his best since the Dublin match.

We all know what Richie is capable of. But he’s not getting any younger. How much more does he have left? Is he the Richie Hogan that won Hurler of the Year in 2014? Is he capable of having that kind of impact?

If all those guys are on the field, and fully fit, then it’s a different story.

Kilkenny won’t fear Cork. Look at last year’s quarter-final, Limerick had to fight tooth and nail to get out of there, and we all saw what the Treaty did after that.

There’s no way Kilkenny are going to hand this to Cork, the Rebels will have to earn it.

There’s never been a decade that Cork haven’t won an All-Ireland.

The reality is now that it’s been 14 years since their last triumph, and it’s their final chance to win one in the 2010s. The weight of history is there. I think it’s something the Cork players are conscious of.

They haven’t been too far away in recent years. They beat Limerick already this season when they had to, they had one foot in the final last year, and they’re as good as anybody in the country on their day.

They’re still hurting over 2018. I think they feel that this is a team that time is running out to get their hands on an All-Ireland. I expect them to be in the last four and have a big say in the championship yet.

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