CORK football critics were provided with more ammunition to fire potshots at anyone in their eyeline following Sunday’s disappointing Munster final loss to Tipperary.
Their reasons could range from Cork scoring only six points from play out of their total of 14 to conceding twice that amount to the lethal Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney, from open play and placed balls.
They might also burn the ears off you about the imbalance in the number of rookie defenders trying to curb the Tipp pair.
Cork had Maurice Shanley, Paul Ring, Tadhg Corkery, and Sean Meehan making their provincial final debuts, with the first and last mentioned tasked with keeping tabs on Sweeney and Quinlivan.
Not only are the Tipp pair some of the most gifted players in the country, but they’ve a wealth of experience in the Sigerson Cup and Munster and All-Ireland club championships, too.
Tactically, Tipp boss, David Power, implemented a plan that Cork struggled to cope with, particularly in the roadblocks erected around the half-back line.
Cork couldn’t penetrate as they did against Kerry in the semi-final and with no big target man inside, there was no outlet for an aerial route.
Mark Keane was introduced just before the hour, to midfield, where Cork struggled all through, but he was also needed in front of goal.
Cork manager, Ronan McCarthy, said Keane did well. “We didn’t win the midfield battle at any stage and he caught some good ball and made an impact,” he added.
McCarthy, whose three-year term is over, jumped to the defence of the players when asked about Cork’s unreliability in big games.
“I think it’s unfair to that group of players. I believe people have to acknowledge that it is so difficult to raise yourself, both physically and mentally, again, after investing so much against Kerry,” McCarthy said.
“It wasn’t that they didn’t try to do it and they worked hard over the previous couple of weeks, but it is difficult.
“If you take an overall view, the team is going in the right direction, but this is a setback.
“And let’s be realistic here: Cork have won six Munster titles in the last 24 years.
“It’s a big opportunity lost, from my point of view, to get the team to play a top team in Croke Park.
“I’ve said this to you before, that I want this team to play there as often as possible and we’ve certainly missed an opportunity to do that in the development of the team,” he said.
This is a critical stage in Cork football, because they have to appoint the right man to the right team to keep moving in the right direction.
Time is on everyone’s side, with no pressing need for a decision, so there should be no rush to judgement or knee-jerk reactions.
Continuity is the buzz word. Everyone is disappointed with the result, but there is an extended group of players, capable of returning to an upward trajectory.
The stakeholders, board officers, players, and the current management will assess not only this season, but the three-year period in reaching a decision.
McCarthy, his selectors, Sean Hayes and Gary O’Halloran, his coach, Cian O’Neill, and Kevin Smith, the strength-and-conditioning coach, should be asked to continue.
Of course, time commitments are a factor and so is burnout, because three years in inter-county football is hugely demanding. “There’s a bigger question there, in relation to Cork football, in that: Are we happy to be winning one Munster championship every four or five years? And whether we won on Sunday or not, that question is still there,” McCarthy said.
“We have to be better than one every five or six years and last-minute goals, and all that kind of stuff.
“OK, it brings memories to people, but surely we’re more ambitious than that.
“You have to go out and play the game on its merits and perform. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t perform well enough and the better team beat us on the day,” McCarthy said.