THERE’S no doubt, Sunday threw a spanner into the works.
The naturally gifted scribblers sit down, take out the quill and the blank canvas develop into manuscripts.
My mind is in a constant state of flux as to what should make it on to the plain white pages. Leading up to last weekend, many of the previews were concerned about how the footballers would get on. At least the hurling would be alright I thought.
Beating Kilkenny, the 2019 version, was never going to be considered a season high so the main discussion document would be based on the upcoming challenge against the neighbours from Limerick.
Then the spanner sent my plans into disarray. Apologies for the incorrect reading of the tea leaves. Kilkenny were meant to be in decline. And maybe they still are. Cork’s bench had a far more productive look to it before.
Not to use it as a mitigating factor but we certainly didn’t expect Richie Hogan to start. That meant Walter Walsh was included as a sub. The Kilkenny bench contributed six points to the tally, whereas Cork’s pine seat men didn’t raise any flag in anger.
In the aftermath of such defeats, the knives are out. These days through the wonderful world of social media. To add some edge to these implements of destruction, the usual store of statistics is not found wanting.
In the third quarter, Kilkenny outscored Cork 1-8 to 0-1.
How often have we witnessed a flick like Colin Fennelly’s to Richie Hogan for Kilkenny’s vital score not coming off? The gospel according to fine margins.
The puck-out strategy is another handy one to refer to. Incidentally, I do think the finger injury sustained earlier on by Aidan Walsh was a factor, in terms of not being able to use him as a target for the famous restarts.
While we are on statistics, we may as well go the full hog. No senior All-Ireland since 2005, 18 years since the last Minor, and 21 years since the last U21 title.
Please God, this year’s U20 team may end the latter drought. Of course, you have to accept a certain amount of red gloom but the reality isn’t as bad.
Huge work has been done and continues to be done at development level and as mentioned last week, the presence of four Cork schools in the top two Munster Post Primary Schools competitions is a high wattage bulb at the end of the tunnel.
Now let us get back to the big ball game against the Dubs.
Being honest, like the rest, I never had Cork emerging victorious.
After some internal discussion, I settled on eight points being acceptable, not sure why, while the bookies went for 11.
Whereas the scoreboard doesn’t lie, it can be economical with the truth. Cork were better than a 13-point defeat.
Probably what was more interesting was the nation becoming aware of the ‘meeting’. You know the one, where seemingly, the Cork team on the back of a rather poor start to the league, took matters into their own hands and organised a players’ meeting.
Now be truthful, when such a gathering is mentioned what are the first thoughts that come to mind? Ok, I will give you some guidance, it is usually to shaft a manager, or indeed an entire selection committee.
Of course, I should be mindful of living in Cork, and in the past such gatherings led to some bitter fallouts. In the case of this gathering, and of course I am not privy to exactly what happened, it appears that the players indicated they weren’t happy with the Rebels’ defensive strategy.
I am not sure whether it was an admission of lacking the skills to play such a game, or was it a case of being convinced that the best form of attack is defence.
Let’s take a breather here for a moment, and just imagine that this meeting caused a management team to step down. Taking it further, imagine a no-expenses-spared group was put in charge of the group instead of the current set-up and the performances improved.
What would we all say? Money well spent!
None of this happened of course. But I’m assuming that after an honest chat with the players, Ronan McCarthy and his backroom team, one of the smallest in the country, displayed real leadership and set about putting in place a plan which would take the whole group in the right direction.
Honestly, it is almost unbelievable that such a simple event has set in motion a train of events that appears to have dragged Cork football from the mire.
Watching the first 10 minutes last weekend, Cork were like students left unsupervised in a classroom waiting for the teacher with timing issues to turn up. In such a scenario, mayhem can ensue, but once the muinteóir walks in, normal service is restored.
It wasn’t long before the Blue Army’s ‘Drive for Five’ was back in business, but a 13-point beating wasn’t a true reflection of the game. It is not that often that such a defeat doesn’t call the keyboard warrior to arms.
Cork did well but now, being selfish, we demand a little more.
Tyrone must be taken out. It is a tall order but the successful challenge game circuit, followed by the big day moral victories, offers some hope.
Of course, it’s going to be a huge challenge, and one that may demand an altering of the attacking policy. Most observers will try and tell us that the Mickey Harte managed outfit reverted to their tried and trusted blanket defence system after the Donegal defeat.
I think they still have a fast breaking policy in place, which on many occasions involves Peter Harte. His influence must be reduced.
It could be an awesome victory and what’s more, that mighty ‘meeting’ might be the part of the five-year plan that nobody factored in. Carpe Diem.
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