Cork did what they had to do on Saturday night and no more.
Amidst the warm afterglow of their spirited display in challenging Tipperary in the Munster semi-final, optimism abounded about the prospects of this Cork hurling team.
Saturday’s qualifier exertion against Offaly injected some pragmatism but thought the players and management nothing they were not aware of. This team is a long-term project under Jimmy Barry-Murphy and there needs to be substantial improvements wrought out of them if they are to bridge the gap between themselves and the elite.
Victory was the key objective and they achieved just that. There are still issues over their defensive structure and their best midfield partnership but chalking up 1-26 without playing particularly sparkling hurling is a step in the right direction.
Barry-Murphy’s attitude of giving youth its head is getting some rewards with substitutes Daniel Kearney and Stephen Moylan showing up well during their second-half cameos.
They’re still standing in the 2012 championship and the test on Saturday should stand to them when they square off against Wexford next weekend.
Offaly picked themselves up admirably after the desolation of their heavy defeat to Galway. They restored some pride and proved they can stand toe to toe with top-flight counties in the championship arena.
They posted a decent total on the scoreboard on an evening when star man Shane Dooley’s input was supplemented by fine productions by Joe Bergin and Brian Carroll.
That would suggest Offaly have something to build on in the wake of Saturday night’s qualifier defeat to Cork. But instead their 2012 campaign has ground to a halt and they have suffered the demoralizing experience of claiming another moral victory.
For a team in a development stage, a pattern of narrow defeats will not suffice to keep them progressing.
Clare were in a similar situation to Offaly entering this championship weekend in that they finally needed to issue a summer statement and deliver a success. They did just that in Ennis on Saturday whereas Offaly’s luckless run continues with another July exit and frustration is sure to start creeping in.