CORK defender Mattie Taylor believes last year’s exploits will stand to the side going into the Munster semi-final with Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday at 4pm.
While Cork lost to the Kingdom in the provincial final by 1-19 to 3-10, they reached the Super 8s for the first time.
Again, defeat was their lot, but Cork were in the exalted company of All-Ireland champions Dublin, Tyrone and Roscommon and didn’t show they were out of place.
“It was a massive disappointment losing to Kerry. We felt we left it behind us that day because we had opportunities to win the game.
“We bottled that feeling and have it ready for this year. We have full confidence in the group and really don’t spend much time looking outside it.
“We did have confidence going into the game and I think it showed the strength-in-depth in the group after going down to Division 3 in the league.
“We have strong leaders in the group and we put up one hell of a battle that day. It was just unfortunate we came up short,” Taylor said.
The Mallow player is likely to be just one of a few survivors in defence when Cork make their team public.
Clonakilty’s Liam O’Donovan is out injured while colleague Tom Clancy is no longer involved and the composition of the full-back line, in particular, will make interesting reading.
James Loughrey, who didn’t play in the last league game against Louth, is set to wear three, but who fills the roles either side of him will occupy the minds of manager Ronan McCarthy and co.
Taylor, who can play left half-back or centre-back, described the importance of competing in the Super 8s.
“For a lot of us last year it was our first time in Croke Park and even though we didn’t get the results, there were a lot of lessons learned.
“I think they’re in the locker now for a lot of us. The experience is there and should definitely help us.
“With the break this season, though, you’d wonder will that transfer across? It’s hard to know.”
Taylor placed Cork’s triumphant Division 3 campaign in context, saying they were mindful of the opposition they were playing, but winning instils confidence, he said.
“We can only look at ourselves and try and get better. You can’t compare the two seasons, more just concentrate on our own performances.
“The U20 success last year has rejuvenated the panel. They’ve come in thrown the shackles off and gone for it.
“Some really good guys have come through and there’s more to come,” Taylor added.
While the shape of the Cork defence is up in the air, Kerry are in the happy position of likely to start with five of last year’s sextet with Peter Crowley at centre-back the lone change expected.
McCarthy saw Kerry’s last two league games in Division 1, the wins over Monaghan away and Donegal at home and he made this observation about their defensive approach.
“It looks a bit more organised now than it was previously,” he said.
“Kerry have always been able to pull players behind the ball and set up well defensively, just like Dublin.
“It’s not always champagne football with Kerry and their like because you have to make yourself defensively sound.
“I don’t think Kerry have undertaken any massive transformation, they’re just implementing their game plan very well.”
The Cork boss is also hoping the players will have learned from last season, especially, when confronted by massed ranks of defenders.
“The game now is being able to break that down and, be it Tyrone or Kerry, you have to be patient with the ball, not bring it into trouble or contact and ensure you’re not giving cheap turnovers.
“To me, our approach will have to be very similar to what it was against Tyrone last year and we executed that quite well in the first half.
“We’ve got to keep the ball, be clever with it, control it properly and avoid getting turned over. Distributing well is key,” McCarthy commented.
Cork will also be without Fermoy’s Tomás Clancy, Ciarán Sheehan and Kevin Crowley due to injury.