THERE is no doubt the Cork footballers have made progress over the last few months.
The Dublin game was always going to test that level of progress plus identify areas for further improvement.
Cork were strong on their own kick-out, used the ball well and limited the number of soft turnovers. In addition Cork had success on the Dublin kick-out at the start of second half, winning three in a row. Kevin O’Driscoll, in particular, stood out in the contest for breaking ball.
Dublin put a big focus on pressing opposition kick-outs but Cork did well here also except obviously for the Mark White mistake, which led to the fourth Dublin goal. The challenge the next day will be to repeat this performance as Tyrone will have their homework done.
In last year’s qualifier game, Tyrone forced Cork to kick long with Tyrone dominating the midfield battle. Tyrone won four Cork kick-outs in a row a one stage in the first half.
I’d expect Tyrone to mix it up this week. They will press up and look to rattle Mark White early on but also would expect Tyrone to drop back and concede the kick out if they have built up a lead in the second half.
Cork’s use of possession in this year’s championship has improved when compared to last year’s heavy championship losses. There was too many occasions last year against Kerry and Tyrone when ball-carriers took on his direct opponent at the wrong time or headed into a trap of opposition defenders. The player was in trouble before he even realised it.
They look to be playing more as a team now, and thinking less is more. Playing inter-county is different to club football where you might be expected to do more.
Dublin with all their talent are the masters in passing the ball to a player in a better position. This wasn’t always the case.
Tyrone are very clear in there defensive set up, getting 14 behind the ball and protecting the scoring zone. In Portlaoise last year in the opening minutes Cork were turned over in the tackle on their first three attacks and Michael Hurley was blown for over-carrying on their next possession.
It set the precedent for the remainder of the game.
Cork can take confidence from how they opened up Dublin, when Dublin themselves on occasion had the whole team in there own half. Dublin can play wonderful attacking football buts it’s a bit of a myth at this stage to think that’s all they do.
Good teams in any field sport need to defend well and Dublin are well able to retreat and shut down space when required. Tyrone’s defensive system though will be more blatant and congested but learning’s can still be taken from last week’s game in Croke Park.
In addition Tyrone for all their defensive nous have been conceding too many goal opportunities this year in the championship, which gives Cork hope.
Cork have shown consistency but will need to improve on last week’s performance if they want to keep their championship hopes alive. The team is scoring more but still defensively teams are able to get within thirty yards of Corks goal too often.
Opponents are running harder, quicker and more often and decisions defensively are often made under more fatigue than against lower level opposition. This can lead to more poor mistakes of which at this level can mean an easy goal chance for the opposition.
Tyrone no doubt will designate some one to man-mark Ruairí Deane. Last week Dublin’s man-marker John Small didn’t take his eyes off Deane and did a good job. In addition Small still knew when to attack at the right time scoring one crucial point and missing a great goal chance.
Results wise Kerry sent out a clear message that they could be Dublin’s biggest challengers this year. Many aspects of their game was strong versus Mayo, and there is no better team to watch when they implement their kick-passing game.
Never the less, questions still remain to be answered defensively. When Kerry were on the front foot they were awesome but then many aspects of Mayo’s performance was so poor with too many unforced errors.
I wouldn’t write Mayo off just yet either. There is too much experience in that camp for them to get rattled by the poor performance in Killarney. The players will be very clear in what they need to improve on.
Mistakes will happen but it was still surprising to see such an experienced team forcing the kick pass so often throughout the first half. When they did string a few passes together they still looked quite dangerous and scored some excellent points.
The Super 8 concept may not be perfect but punters and managements alike will get a clear assessment of each teams form and ability as its tested over three games. On any given day a team can get lucky and things can fall your way but not over consecutive weekends. There is still question marks over many teams but that is what makes it so intriguing.
Cork have made progress but defeating one of the top sides in Tyrone is now the next step. There is zero interest in moral victories right now I am sure.
The difference compared to 12 months ago is Cork have a chance. That’s a good starting point for any team.