Cork footballers are learning to cope with the blanket defence

Cork footballers are learning to cope with the blanket defence
John O'Rourke of Cork in action against Offaly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

CORK’S next opponents, Louth, find themselves between a rock and a hard place going into the penultimate Division 3 league encounter at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, at 2pm.

Louth prop up the table, pointless from five outings, and are almost bankers to be relegated, a fact likely to be confirmed after the game.

That should leave visitors Louth with only one course of action against the leaders: all-out attack in their quest to pull off a shock result. But that could play into Cork’s hands.

However, Louth will probably attempt what all the others have, unsuccessfully: to frustrate the home side by packing their defence.

Either way, Cork have the wherewithal to deal with whatever obstacles are placed in their path, as reflected in the last outing, against Derry, at the same venue.

John O’Rourke is the joint second-highest scorer, on 2-8, along with rookie, Cathail O’Mahony, who has 0-14 to his name, the pair just a couple of points behind Luke Connolly, with 2-10.

O’Rourke, the Carbery Rangers attacker, scored 2-2 against Derry and explained, afterwards, how Cork approach teams’ safety-first approach.

“From the start of the year, we knew, playing in Division 3, that a lot of teams were going to set-up a lot like that.

“We’ve done some work in training on how to play against it, offensively and defensively.

“Of course, we’d rather play attack-minded football, but there is no point in kicking a ball into a full-forward who has three players on him, either,” he said.

It was the case against Derry, who pulled all their players behind their own 45m line, when playing against the strong wind in the first-half.

“I understand, watching on, it can be frustrating to be looking at it, but we play the best we can to get the result,” O’Rourke said.

“We had to show a lot of patience and switch play from wing-to-wing, back and forth.

“It’s not the way we were brought up to play football, but, sometimes, it’s the way you have to play to get results,” O’Rourke added.

He was involved in the creation and finishing of moves that led to a couple of points from the ‘mark’ during the first-half.

O’Rourke teed-up Damien Gore for his score and then received a Paul Kerrigan pass to complete the task himself.

“We have worked on it a small bit, but not over-emphasising it. I don’t think it has been over-used in the league.

“Derry set up their defensive line just inside their 45m line, which allowed lads have time to look up and Páirc Uí Chaoimh is such a big pitch that you can hit pockets on the wings against blanket defences,” O’Rourke said.

“Both ‘marks’ came from the right wing and they weren’t hard kick-passes, either; short, 20-30 yard kicks.

“It was something we discussed as the game went on in the first half, because there was a lot of space to hit the ‘mark’.

“Lads were able to get their heads up and pick their passes,” O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, players on opposite sides in last week’s Munster U20 final between Cork and Kerry will merge this afternoon to try and extend UCC’s Freshers season.

They head to play NUIG in a championship quarter-final with a 3.30pm throw-in.

College are the league champions, but lost out on a home tie after an impressive DCU outfit inflicted a 1-14 to 0-11 defeat on them in their concluding pool game, after UCC opened with a big win over CIT.

UCC are captained by Fionn Herlihy (Dohenys), who started against Kerry, when wing-back Brian Lynch (Douglas) and forwards, Darragh Hayes (Carbery Rangers) and Conor Russell (Douglas), were sprung from the bench.

Kerry’s team included three players expected to start this afternoon: defender Owen Fitzgerald (Gneevguilla), midfielder Michael O’Gara (Austin Stacks), and corner-forward Ruaidhrí Ó Beaglaoich (An Gaeltacht), scorer of 0-5 against Cork.

Tipperary’s Riain Quigley (Moyle Rovers), who made his first senior start in the Division 3 league defeat by Cork, is another highly regarded inside forward.

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