If there was a cold sense of déjà vu about the slowly-unfolding manner of Dublin’s Leinster SHC semi-final defeat to Kilkenny in Portlaoise, it’s worth noting that the experience was a new one for some of the fresher-faced Dubs in whom Ger Cunningham’s has invested so much trust over his tenure.
Shane Barrett, for instance, was Cunningham’s defensive find of 2015 and until a couple of weeks back, the tightening vice sensation of Kilkenny’s second half surge was alien to him.
“For the younger lads, it was the first time going down like that,” the Na Fianna clubman explained.
“But we learned a massive amount. That experience will last a long time.
“No one wants to feel that sort of hurt again. We sat down. We had a meeting. We discussed everything,” he says of the presumably sombre time immediately afterwards.
“Give Kilkenny five per cent more and they’re going to crush you. It was intense,” he recalls.
“There was a lot of collisions going in. It was very intense for us but, look, I felt we matched them very well, you know?
“There was only a point in it at half-time. And then we fell off. The intensity dropped, and then obviously Kilkenny with the players they have, they put the pressure on us.”
None of which past-gazing is much good for Dublin this week.
If Cork seem as vulnerable as Dublin right now, home advantage is surely the sort of boon Ger Cunningham’s team could have done with.
“They’re going to be fired up for it,” Barrett admits.
“So we can only prepare for them being the best they are.
“We know the forwards they have, we know the names they have.
“We really have to close down on them, we can’t give them any space or they’ll punish you.
“They could turn up and be the best they’ve been all year so you just have to focus on what you have.
“Going down to Páirc Uí Rinn, a home crowd (for Cork). There’s probably going to be 16,000 Cork people there.”
What lessons Dublin have digested, it’s hard to say.
Kilkenny are almost unique in the scale of damage they can inflict in such a short space of time and more likely, Saturday night will be a slog between two counties desperate to save their seasons.
“I think we need to play for the full game, we can’t just let it off at half-time,” Barrett insists.
“We need to come out after half-time and even be better than we were in the first-half, don’t let the intensity levels drop or else we’re going to get caught again.
“We just need to keep the intensity levels up and keep doing the right options, stick to the game-plan.
“Cork are well known for starting well as well,” he points out.
“We know what they’re going to bring. And we have to match that,” Barrett concludes.
Conor McKeon – Evening Herald