CORK hurling manager Kieran Kingston hopes the team can continue their recent upward curve when they take on Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final in Croke Park (3.30pm).
While Kingston feels his team will be going in as underdogs against the Leinster champions, he is looking forward to the prospect of going up against Brian Cody’s side.
‘Kilkenny’s record is incredible and everybody knows the success they’ve had over the last number of years,’ he says, ‘there’s no point in me trying to blow them up any more they’ve blown themselves up with their performances.
‘We know it’s a massive game for us, it’s in Croke Park, where they play most of their games, and it’s a huge challenge for our guys.
‘It’s a different experience and people will talk about records and this and that but that’s history, we don’t even discuss that. This is now and it’s up to our lads to take it forward from the performances they have given.
‘I think they’ve put a bit of pride back into the jersey, they’ve certainly played with pride, honesty and character. I think the public have seen that and they’re buying into it and supporting it. You could see the support that they got last Saturday night, because of the effort and the character that they showed, what we’re trying to instil in them and they’re trying to play with.
‘That won’t always happen right through every game, it won’t happen for the 75 or 80 minutes, but as long as they keep trying to do the right thing and represent the jersey in a very honest fashion, that’s all that we can ask from them and it’s all that we’ll be asking again as they take to the field in Croke Park on Sunday, representing Cork.’
Having beaten Clare and Dublin on the previous two Saturdays, it’s a third week in a row for Cork to be playing but thankfully Bill Cooper is the only confirmed absentee as Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan return following appendicitis and a groin injury respectively.
‘Bill is definitely out,’ Kingston says.
‘Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan returned to training this week so they’re in contention, they were back Tuesday night after two and a half weeks.’
Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett, who are U20 but playing with the senior team, are unaffected by the Covid-19 situation which has resulted in the postponement of the U20 All-Ireland final against Galway.
‘They’re part of our squad,’ Kingston says, ‘they weren’t with the U20s squad at all.
‘We’re in our own little bubble, in many ways.’
Cork are seeking a first Croke Park win since the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final victory against Dublin, with three semi-final losses since then and the 2019 quarter-final against the Cats also chalked down as a defeat. Kingston prefers to look forward, though.
‘It’s an opportunity,’ he says, ‘it’s an All-Ireland semi-final, you’re 76 minutes away from an All-Ireland final.
‘That’s the focus and we haven’t discussed 2013 or any of those games from the past with the players and nor do we intend doing any of that. This is about now, it’s about us – some of these lads hardly remember 2013, they were barely out of national school!
‘The focus from these guys is to go and create their own history and their own records, not to looking back.
‘We work to a motto – we can’t change the past but we can certainly influence the future, and that’s the way I deal with them.’