THERE was something comforting about the return to football action last weekend even if some parts were stranger than normal.
Checking streams and media for so many score updates and results felt more Premier League weekend than local championship – you almost felt aprogramme might work on the Sunday night as round-up for those interested in seeing multiple games.
The new format was always going to be fresh anyway but there was an excitement added with so many big games going on around the county in such a short space of time - it gave a taster of what things could be like with a calendar that works. Some parts stayed the same.
Luke Connolly scoring a worldie against Valleys kept the idea of things not changing too much in the end. The Hurleys did damage for Castlehaven again. Teams were enthusiastic but rusty mostly, which seemed about right.
Being able to watch several games on screens did offer some insights. A few weeks ago we spoke to people involved in aspects of looking at the kick in Cork football, how it's used and not used and how it might be developed, and it was certainly interesting to watch the various clubs do their thing with that idea in the background.
Right from the throw-in at Páirc Uí Rinn Saturday evening Douglas won possession, Sean Wilson offered a runner for a handpass, bombed on and kicked a huge point.
And Douglas basically followed that format all evening, runners rushing into the spaces, taking ball at speed, looking to punch holes with handpasses and possession. Almost all their scores came from runners taking a handpass, apart from their breakaway goal late on with a kickpassed assist. At the throw-in for the second half it was exactly the same, Niall Hartnett running down the middle this time for a score.
The Barrs hadn’t been dissimilar the night before – all Cillian Myers-Murray’s three points from play that clinched the game in the second half came from runners and handpassed assists. With speed and legs in the middle third of both teams, that is more their style of play – carrying ball, running into spaces – than launching kickpasses into their inside-forwards.
In Clon on Sunday it was different. At throw-in, Castlehaven won possession and Mark Collins’ first thought was to kick the ball directly in front of Brian Hurley. He turned, set up his brother Michael on the loop and Haven’s main score creation pattern for the rest of the game was outlined – kickpasses and the Hurleys’ abilities to work a chance one-v-one every time.
The kickpassing was an interesting one. Haven mix their game quite a lot between working the ball up the field with strong running and having a few kickpassers around the middle third who can then hit the inside line with longer ball. For point two, again Mark Collins kickpassed across the field to find Conor Cahalane, who took on his man and curled over.
Collins is chief playmaker, always instinctively looking for the longer option where possible
Point three, a straight Damien Cahalane (he is the kickpasser option from deeper) hit Michael Hurley, who took on his man out by the 45, broke the tackle and kicked another score. Later in the first half, a dinked pass inside led to Brian Hurley kicking over a score.
The second half followed on. Two more clever Mark Collins kickpasses created shots at goal for Brian Hurley and then another created a score. It was that sort of afternoon for the Hurleys, unplayable in those game conditions. Brian looked capable of creating a shot every time he got possession, for one score first half he burst past a tackle like it wasn’t there.
He scored right foot and then left – in the Cork kicking programme, two-footed kicking is heavily promoted, Brian Hurley and Seamus Hayes both did it here.
Michael looked just as capable of creating a chance with his hands on the ball. He kicked a score over his shoulder without needing to take his man on twice, and then took his man on and beat him for another two scores. This variation is key. Castlehaven can kick long into the spaces knowing that both Hurleys can turn and kick scores without needing to beat a man, but they can turn and take defenders on as well to create a shooting chance.
As a contrast, their opponents here, Carbery Rangers, have always like kicking the ball traditionally but with John Hayes and John O’Rourke missing, they struggled to get those linking combinations going with any sustained movements involving the kickpass.
They actually did themselves more harm at times. One score in the first half for Haven came from a loose kickpass across the pitch from the Ross defence. At least two other scores in the second half for Haven originated from Ross trying to hit their forward line with a kickpass and not being able to. Ross didn’t have the Hurleys to hit of course.
The worry for everyone else?
If you were wondering if Haven could continue to produce players, another wildcard emerged. Jack Cahalane came into the game and made it look so natural to run and find space and link play that it gave the impression of another potential game-changer for the club, the sort of talent that can shift momentum from getting by to competing for titles.
Within a minute or two Cahalane had popped up in space in front of goal where he should have been found. He linked around the middle and then whacked the perfect crossfield kickpass that took out at least four Ross defenders to find Michael Hurley on the crossfield run inside – Hurley pointed.
Moments later he worked back to force a turnover, linked with a kickpass bouncing perfectly and then followed his run to burst in on goal (he missed, but you know it’s no harm for there to be potential improvements). He worked a one-two with running to make another point for Michael Hurley. It was a serious cameo and a little reminder that a Haven with Jack CahalaneMark Collins feeding the two Hurleys would be a fairly stacked forward line for creative power.
It was a good start for Haven, a welcome return for everybody.