"This time last year an All-Ireland was ten years away from us, or so we all thought,” - Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor
There are many aspects of Cork's play during the 2017 championship that bare little resemblance to the two years previous but Rebel legend Ben O'Connor is quick to make the case for defence.
Getting scores has never been an issue for Kieran Kingston's side but conceding them has. The bolts have been severely tightened in recent months, however, and O'Connor lays much of the praise at one man's feet.
Millstreet is not renowned for its hurlers but in Mark Ellis, they have unearthed a gem with two-time All-Star O'Connor believing that he has alleviated the pressure on their "overworked" full-back and allowed them to thrive.
"Mark Ellis is really after standing up this year. I would have been critical of Mark before, a big strong lad like him I thought he was very loose with fellas running in past him, this year he's after getting way more physical and growing into the No 6 spot," O'Connor tells gaelicplayers.com.
"He's one of the main reasons because that half-back line is dominating and keeping the ball out. Then inside you have Damien Cahalane, he's gotten a lot of stick the last few years but I never thought he was the problem.
"I just thought they were overworked in the full-back line but the half-back line are stopping a lot going in and taking the pressure off them. They're playing so well inside that anything that comes in they're meeting it at 100 miles an hour."
O'Connor picked up three All-Ireland medals during an illustrious Cork career with the much-acclaimed half-back line of John Gardiner, Ronan Curran and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín driving them forward at every opportunity for two of those successes.
He sees huge similarities with the current crop of Chris Joyce, Ellis and Mark Coleman who are continuously provide a springboard to attack but the efficient link play between defence and attack has also impressed him immensely.
"When we were going well there wasn't a ball passing Sean Óg, Gardiner or Curran and when it did you had the likes of 'Sully' (current selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan) coming out and fellas were worried when he was coming out because he was hitting hard," O'Connor says.
"Our half-back line took so much pressure off our full-back line, they were winning it in the air, they were winning it on the ground and Cork have been badly caught in the half-back line the last two years whereas this year they are after strengthening up a lot.
"Mark Coleman is a serious addition coming in playing the way he is but as a unit in general, Cork are poles apart from other years and Damien Cahalane breaking out against Clare in the Munster final was a prime example of that.
"He runs and he runs with the sliotar, if that was last year when Damien got to the middle of the field there's a good chance he would have taken a shot. Great score if it goes over but if it goes wide you're under pressure again