THE road to recovery has been long and torturous for Brian Hurley, but his two goals against Limerick showed that he is approaching his best again.
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy certainly subscribes to that view and he believes that there is even more to come.
‘I think people underestimate what a loss he has been to Cork football over the last two-to-three years,’ he said.
‘It’s not just the quality of his forward play, it’s his workrate off the ball for his team-mates, it’s his absolute love and passion for Cork football and his attitude, which is infectious and raises standards in training and everything else.
‘He’s been a seismic loss to Cork football over the last couple of years. He’s not fully back yet, he’s obviously making great progress and you can see the benefit of being 12 months of football on from last year.
‘He’s certainly moving very well but we have to mind him and be careful with him. The beauty of Brian is that, at this stage, he’s old enough to know that, if he’s at training on a given night and he’s not right, he’ll step out of it and we leave that up to him.
‘He’s minding himself well and we’re minding him well. Every team should have one of him.’
Of the 21-point win, in which Cork led by 15 at half-time, McCarthy could have no complaints.
‘It went well, and I’m not going to complain,’ he said.
‘After 20 minutes, we were 3-7 to no-score up and the game was put to bed at that stage. What would have pleased us is that we kept at it and didn’t back off, didn’t relent.
‘The conditions in the second half were very difficult, when you have a hard pitch underneath and the surface is so greasy, it can be hard.
‘I thought we kept at it, kept working the scoreboard and kept working hard. It was a good night at the office.’
Though Cork had been relegated from Division 2 of the league, they had won two of their last three games and had gone well in challenge matches. Even so, was there some trepidation until that was shown in championship?
‘I wouldn’t say trepidation,’ McCarthy said.
‘If we didn’t see it against Limerick, you’re just waiting for it. I’m repeating myself, but I believe it to be there in that group and we got some signs of it this evening, certainly in the first 20, 22 minutes.
‘We were clinical and ruthless and it wasn’t just our attacking quality, it was our workrate and rate of turnover and so on. You saw elements of it and, to some extent, people shouldn’t be surprised, with the quality of players that we have.
‘You can talk about it and do it and we did it, to some extent.’
A bigger test will await, but McCarthy feels that competition for places will drive Cork, as was seen in the second half.
‘Obviously, at that point we had more than one foot in the Munster final and the message to guys is that, ‘If you want to slacken off, off you go, but there are other guys coming to look for your place.’
‘We have Tom Clancy from Fermoy, Seán White, Stephen Cronin, Michael Hurley, they’ll have a big say in this team and this panel in training for the next couple of weeks. They didn’t get on and they’re not going to take that lightly.
‘Fellas know there’s competition for places so that means that they keep driving on.’