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gaa view Patrick Horgan's silken finishing skills provide Cork with a platform to build on

Horgan is key with Rebels regrouping


Patrick Horgan

Patrick Horgan

Patrick Horgan

By the time Cork face All-Ireland champions Limerick in the Munster semi-final this summer, Patrick Horgan will be 34.

He is the longest-serving player on the Cork squad by some distance. This is his 14th season with the Rebels and, unfortunately for him, it has coincided the Cork's worst hurling famine in living memory.

Cork last won the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2005 and unless they secure the 2021 All-Ireland title, it will beat their previous longest stretch without a win (1903-1919).

Horgan's magnificent career will not be tarnished, even if he retires without an elusive medal. After all, he would joins a long list of distinguished stick men who didn't feature on an All-Ireland-winning side in their careers.

Take your pick from Tony Browne, Ciaran Carey, Ger Loughnane, Gary Kirby, John Mullane, Dan Shanahan, and Ollie Canning. Yet there is no Cork player on the list.

For so long it was simply assumed that if you hurled with Cork, Kilkenny or Tipperary, then it was a given you would win an All-Ireland.


Cork remain second in the Roll of Honour with 30 wins. But they were overtaken by Kilkenny in 2009 and the Cats are now six ahead of Cork, while Tipperary (28) are just two behind.

Horgan made his first appearance for Cork in a National Hurling league tie in March 2008 against Dublin at Parnell Park. Later that year he made the first of his 60 championship appearances, when he replaced Niall McCarthy in the Munster semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

He came into a team of hurling icons including Donal Óg Cusack, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and the O'Connor twins, Ben and Jerry.

Horgan is now the third all-time highest scorer in championship hurling, averaging 8.2 points per game.

Though Henry Shefflin leads the charts with 28-485 (569), the odds are he will be overtaken this year by Galway's Joe Canning, who is second with 27-474 (555 points). Like Horgan, he has made 60 appearances.

'Hoggy' - as he is affectionately known - lies third with a 23-497 (497) tally.

A four-time All-Star, in 2019 he became the all-time top points scorer in the Munster Championship and he was shortlisted for the Hurler of the Year award.

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He captained Cork last year but the Rebels were ambushed by Waterford in the Munster semi-final and floored by Tipp in Round 2 of the qualifiers.

Since their 2006 All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny, Cork have made the showpiece only once - the 2013 final against Clare.

The major reason for Cork's malaise during the last decade has been their neglect of underage hurling, at least in terms of churning out All-Ireland winners.

They last won the All-Ireland U-21 championship - now changed to an U-20 grade - in 1998. At minor level, their last win came in 2001.

Waterford came from left field last year and went all the way to the final. Cork being Cork, they won't be intimidated at the prospect of taking on Limerick in the Munster semi-final this summer.


Form, rather than results, are what count in the league as all their rivals will see the match against Westmeath as a cast-iron two points which will leave them safe in the top flight.

The return of former boss Donal O'Grady, who was in charge when Cork were crowned champions in 2004, is fascinating. He has been given the role of defensive coach, but his back-to-basics approach to coaching might be just what the team's leaky defence needs.

Horgan's silken finishing skills, both from placed ball and open play, provide Cork with a platform to build on but the spine of the team requires surgery.

Goalkeeper Anthony Nash has retired while the number three and six shirts are up for grabs as well. UCC won the Fitzgibbon Cup in 2019 and 2020, and that suggests there is talent coming through the ranks. Furthermore, Cork contested the 2018 U-21 All-Ireland final, the 2019 U-20 decider and are through to the delayed 2020 final.

Key players from those side - Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston, Robbie O'Flynn and Robert Downey - have been blooded by Cork in championship hurling.

They must now backbone the team, though the experimentation is far from over.

Wexford's George O'Connor reached the Promised Land at the age of 37 when, after a career spanning 17 seasons, Wexford finally won the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1996.

So there is hope for Hoggy that the long wait will end and he will bring Liam MacCarthy down Grand Parade as it returns to Cork.

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