I CAN tell you that it’s absolutely freezing in the media area in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It’s always a little chilly there, no matter what time of the year, similar to Croke Park as it’s outdoor. Not too many people realise that.
They think the print and radio media are tucked away in nice cozy press boxes on big days in these stadiums, but I can vouch that it’s the opposite. But it has a bird’s eye view of magnificent pitches and games, and for that we are privileged.
The pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh looked like a billiard table last Saturday for the All-Ireland senior championship semi-finals. Comparing it to Thurles and Croke Park for the hurling games, it looked the best of the three.
Cork had a comprehensive win over Clare in the first semi-final, but that only really came in the last quarter when a tired Clare lost concentration and made silly errors coming out of defence.
They had done so well for 45 minutes, possibly the best I have seen Clare play in a long, long time and full credit to them.
It was only then that Amy O’Connor capitalised and scored two well-taken goals. When Amy is through on goal there’s typically only one result, it hits the net. Trying to get in on goal against a strong full-back line can be difficult and that’s why I’d like to see a bit more variety in Cork’s play.
It was very clear that while Clare’s back three were solid, their six defenders didn’t have the speed of Cork’s forwards and with so much space in the park, and Clare playing a traditional attacking style of hurling, that was the time to hit low, fast balls inside to the line of O’Connor, Linda Collins, and Saoirse McCarthy.
The delivery is too slow. Cork’s management has defended its ‘through the lines’ process when teams go defensive on them and that’s a fair decision. But there was no such heavy defensive play on Saturday from Clare and Cork still went down the same route.
I’d suggest that it’s Cork that are forcing teams back as they themselves play deep, pulling out their forwards and crowding the middle third. You could argue they used that style against the wind in the opening half and did play that bit more direct in the second with it at their backs, but I suspect that regardless of conditions or the opposition’s approach, this style of play is what Cork will stick to.
If they win the All-Ireland, they’ll be vindicated of course. Let’s not forget that there are six changes in the current Cork starting 15 compared with the team that last won the All-Ireland in 2018.
Aoife Murray, Leanne O’Sullivan, Rena Buckley, Orla Cotter, and Julia White are five while Gemma O’Connor has also missed out on their last two championship games.
That’s a big gap to fill considering the calibre of those mentioned. And yet, Cork are still in with a great chance of winning the 2020 All-Ireland title.
Orla Cronin was excellent again in her role at centre-forward but playing deep. She creates so much in that forward division, giving great assists and also popping up with some lovely points. She is Cork’s pivotal player up front.
Katrina Mackey is back to her best, despite coming off with what looked to be a shoulder injury. She’s had her fair share of injuries for 16 months or so and has battled back.
It was a tremendous boost for her to get the Player of the Match award and if she can manage those injuries for the remainder of the season, which is a maximum of three weeks if Cork win next Saturday, then she is coming good at the right time.
People might feel that Linda Collins isn’t firing on all cylinders because she isn’t coming away with a bucket of scores to her name, but she is doing a lot of donkey work and laying off good assists. She was involved in four or five scores for Cork.
Laura Treacy had an outstanding game at full-back, just as she did against Galway. Meabh Cahalane is having a solid season.
Hannah Looney is really impressing. She played very well against Galway a day after lining out for the Cork footballers. Hannah and Meabh lined out again last Sunday as the footballers also qualified for the All-Ireland semi-final.
I think Cork’s back six are doing a good job. Pam Mackey is Ms Reliability and Laura Hayes has also filled the left half-back slot well.
Cork haven’t settled on their starting 15, with a couple of changes made ahead of last weekend’s game again. Gemma O’Connor is back training, hopefully in plenty of time for the semi-final.
The LGFA came out the week before the quarter-finals with the statement that if Cork reached both semi-finals they would switch the Cork game out a week to December 6. I’m not going to congratulate them on common sense prevailing as the clash should never have happened in the first place.
It’s great for both managements that the five dual players can concentrate on just the one code in the week leading up to their respective games.