"We haven’t seen too many players do that over the years" - Downey and O'Mahony do it for Walsh 3 months ago

"We haven’t seen too many players do that over the years" - Downey and O'Mahony do it for Walsh

All the talk has been about Cork's lightning forwards but from the top to the tail of this season, Tommy Walsh has been just as impressed by their steadfast defence

Mark Coleman's brilliance is so consistent at this stage that it's almost a given but when the Rebels needed leaders in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Kilkenny last Sunday week, the Blarney centre back could have looked around to see leaders all around him. Robert Downey and Tim O'Mahony, in particular, were two who caught the eye of Kilkenny's nine-time All-Star and though impressed by the flawlessness of their hurling, it was more for the bouncebackability when the game went against them that he admired them.

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Both men, with Billy Ryan running riot and with Adrian Mullen breaking hearts, endured testing patches in the semi-final and equally, both men rose to the test. For players so young - O'Mahony is 24 and Downey just 22 - Walsh sees this courage and resilience as a tremendous sign for the future.

"The most impressive part about Robert Downey and Tim O’Mahoney’s performances was that the two of them had tough parts in that Kilkenny game. Downey was under pressure in the first half, with the quality ball going into Billy Ryan who scored four or five from play off him. But Downey didn’t let it get to him," said Walsh, an ambassador for the Electric Ireland minor championship.

"When a lesser player might have been taken off with ten or 15 to go, Downey just drove into it even more. That’s the sign of a good player and a good team, to withstand them setbacks. And he had an absolute stormer in extra-time, came out with balls, it was unbelievable, we’ll all remember that great flick on TJ when it looked like TJ had the ball in his hands. We haven’t seen too many players do that over the years.

"But he just grew into it after the tough start and that will be a great experience for him before the All-Ireland final and his future career."

"Tim O’Mahony then was the real stand-out," added the Tullaroan man.

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"He was tremendous all through. But then coming out with that last ball, nine times out of ten, you’d drive the ball but if he had done that and it ended up in the net, you’d be going why did he go away from the game-plan.

"So he stuck to the plan, but lost it. James Bergin hurried him, Padraig got it and Mullen put it in the back of the net. But to have to think about that between full time and extra-time, that wouldn’t have been easy but he came out and was nearly man-of-the-match in extra-time."

"That was so impressive from the two of them, their mindsets and how they recovered from set-backs. Tim O’Mahony was a centre forward but he’s made the wing back position his own and it’s the modern wing back, the guy who shoots forward, like Kyle Hayes, and is there in attack as well. On Sunday, to see them against each other, it will be probably two of the best half backs in the game."

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To beat Limerick, Cork will need their attackers to be on song as well and, going on their semi-final win, Walsh says that the Rebel faithful have every confidence in their men Horgan, Kingston and particularly Jack O'Connor. When any of those boys run onto a ball, Walsh says, Drumcondra starts to shake.

“I was up there since early that Sunday morning. You’d swear you were in Cork.

“If you go back to any of the great games, there are players with a certain buzz about them, and when they get the ball it means so much more to the crowd.

“When Hoggy gets it now, Jack O’Connor, a good young player, Shane Kingston gets it coming off the bench, the place is just alight."

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Cork will be hoping Drumcondra isn't the only thing shaking because Walsh feels that Cork will need to hit the net this Sunday if they're going to bring Liam MacCarthy back to the banks of the Lee for the first time since 2005

“They have tools in their toolbox to take on this Limerick team that probably no-one else has at the moment. I don’t think you’re at anything taking them on physically. They’re too physically strong. They’re all above 6’2, 6’3. You take them on with speed and that’s what Cork have.

“They will need goals to beat this Limerick team. But I think how they set up will determine whether they score goals or not.

“To score goals against Limerick you have to take them on, put your six forwards up front."

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“To give them an extra defender would be a huge mistake for Cork. They have the players to take them on 1 on 1. Put someone in on Hannon, someone full-forward on Dan Morrissey. Make these guys uncomfortable and take them on on their own. Don’t give them the confidence that they have a player beside them and they can just let the ball through, Sean Finn and these guys will sweep up all day.

“If you bring it into a 1 v 1 battle up front, they won’t have that cover. Cork have the speed. They now have the experience of scoring goals. Seven already this year.

“It will be very important to set up right in order to score goals."

That being said, Walsh still tips Limerick to shade it though only just.

"They have always come back from setbacks and I expect Limerick to win the final. But I wouldn’t even put it 60:40, I’d put it 55:45 that’s how close it is. Why? That’s because of the game Cork play. The way not to play Limerick is to take them on physically. Because they’re just too big. They’ll soak you up. They’ll spit you back out. The way to take them on is with speed and skill, using your head.

"They have troubled them in the past, Cork have, and this year it was only the goals coming at the right times for Limerick. Cork aren’t as far away from this Limerick team as what people think and I think that’s because of their speed. In previous years, I don’t think they had the work-rate, I don’t think their forwards had the work-rate to give themselves a chance of winning the All-Ireland but this year they do. It would take you two hands to look at the last minute hooks, the tackling, the great pieces of work they put in against Kilkenny. That’s why I’d give them every chance of being there on Sunday."

Electric Ireland Team Up With Tommy Walsh To Highlight The Major Impact Of The Minor Championships 18/8/2021
Today, Electric Ireland has teamed up with former Kilkenny Minor hurler, Tommy Walsh to highlight the major impact of the Minor Championships and to look ahead to this weekend’s Electric Ireland Minor All-Ireland Hurling Championship Final between Cork and Galway which takes place at 7:30pm on Saturday, 21st of August in Semple Stadium. The game will be live on TG4 with coverage beginning at 7:00pm.
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne