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Scars of 2013 are still sore for Cork and Dublin ahead of qualifier showdown

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Ryan O’Dwyer is escorted off by Anthony Daly

Ryan O’Dwyer is escorted off by Anthony Daly

Ryan O’Dwyer is escorted off by Anthony Daly

Time heals most wounds but for Dublin and Cork, some of the scars of 2013 are still sensitive.

"It wasn't what you'd call a traditional semi-final," recalls Seánie McGrath, a Cork selector that year in Jimmy Barry-Murphy's second coming.

"And because of that, a lot of people probably expected us to win. But they had a serious team. They'd beaten Kilkenny. And Dalo had instilled this manic belief in them.

"And look," he ventures. "You probably don't like saying this now…but if Ryan O'Dwyer hadn't been sent off…."

For O'Dwyer, the Tipperary-born, adopted Dub, the sting hasn't dulled in any noticeable way.

"Not a week goes by when I don't think about it," he admits.

"Probably a day doesn't go by when it doesn't pop into my head. You always wonder 'what if?' Could it have been different?'

Whether Dublin would have prevailed had they retained a full team for the duration of that game, in one of the many instant-classic All-Ireland hurling semi-finals of the last decade, is open to interpretation.

In the end, Cork won by five, although Patrick Horgan's late goal, snatched off Gary Maguire's stick, skewed the final score.

But at the very least, O'Dwyer's sending off deprived us the cliffhanger climax the game's frenzied early chapters had teed up.

After two minutes, James Owens booked O'Dwyer for a foul on Luke O'Farrell, when marginally poor timing was probably the extent of his sins.

For the second, he caught Lorcán MacLochlainn in the chest at a time when Dublin led by a point.

"I'm obviously biased," admits O'Dwyer. "But I don't think I deserved to be sent off."

For Dublin, the defeat ranks as the biggest regret of the regenerative Daly era.

That was the summer they beat Kilkenny in the Championship for the first time in 71 years before winning a first Leinster since 1961, when they beat Galway by 12 points in the final.

As they emerged from Leinster, the hurling landscape was changing beyond recognition.

Cork had taken out Kilkenny. Galway were gone. Even O'Dwyer's native county had fallen from the wide-open race for Liam MacCarthy.

"I remember joking with (then Dublin selector) Richie Stakleum that we were the only two Tipp men left in the Championship," he says.

Cork won the day but that summer is tinged for McGrath also. A point up in the subsequent drawn All-Ireland final with time and injury time fully up, only that miracle stroke of Domhnall O'Donovan's hurley deprived them a first Liam MacCarthy Cup in eight years.

"Yes, of course, it stays with you to some extent," McGrath admits.

"Not as much for ourselves, but for Cork as a county. We're seven years on now and having limited success," he notes.

"It's not outlandish to say if we had got over the line, who knows? The landscape might have changed a bit."

Cork haven't been back to a final since. And Dublin have neither won Leinster nor appeared in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Now?

O'Dwyer started qualifier campaigns in seven of his eight years with Dublin, experiencing every variety of defeat; chastising hammerings, moral victories, dispiriting underperformances - the lot.

Never, though, in the position Mattie Kenny's team find themselves in now: having mounted an incredible 16-point comeback against Kilkenny, only to be pipped at the whistle.

"I hope I'm wrong in what I'm saying here, but they don't want to read too much into what happened last weekend," he reckons.

"They nearly caught Kilkenny and it would have been fully deserved. But you wonder how much complacency got into Kilkenny. How much did they take the foot off the pedal?"

Nevertheless, O'Dwyer concedes, the bizarre sequence of the game "showed fight, it showed character" in the Dublin team.

By contrast, Cork almost had to be checked for a pulse in Thurles, so flat were they in their defeat to Waterford.

"They were poor," O'Dwyer observes.

"It was men against boys. Waterford were physically stronger. Their hurling was sharper. Their work-rate - there was no comparison."

And yet still, much like 2013, losing to Dublin in Thurles in tomorrow's qualifier isn't an outcome the Cork hurling public will countenance.

As McGrath notes: "They're going into the game under huge pressure. The criticism here has been very severe. People are very disappointed."

Noting their play against Waterford was "flat", he laments "that could have easily been a ten-point defeat."

And the upshot, McGrath maintains, is that the team is "under vicious pressure now.

"I think it was a mixture of things. But there will be very little leeway going into Saturday.

"The Cork public will expect a bounce-back."


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