'What's the difference since last year for the Cork footballers? Attitude'

'What's the difference since last year for the Cork footballers? Attitude'
James Loughrey tackles Paul Geaney. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

THIS time last season Cork were trying to absorb the after-shocks suffered in the drubbings by Kerry and Tyrone.

Now, 12 months later they're bursting out of their skins to have a pop at All-Ireland champions, Dublin, in their maiden appearance in the Super 8s at Croker this evening.

Defender James Loughrey (32) both posed the question and supplied the answer to the transformation.

James Loughrey. Picture: George Hatchell
James Loughrey. Picture: George Hatchell

“What's the difference between this year and last? It's an attitude thing,” he said during the week.

The footballers came for dog's abuse in 2018 and it continued into the league this season. Loughrey, fully, understands the reaction.

“If I was watching us cold I'd be saying the same thing because the criticisms being levelled at us were fair and that was doubly frustrating. The big thing was giving the ball away.

“There was one training session in particular in which we addressed it.

“Anytime we gave the ball away in a match in training we had to go to the end line for sprints. It's unbelievably simple and basic.

“I remember talking to Ian (Maguire) about it and it was doing my head in.

“I came in late for training, as I do because I'm the only one working (joking) and it just happened.

“Management decided enough was enough so it was sprints anytime we gave the ball away.

“The mistake was so glaring that you couldn't miss it, so it was forced torture that made us not give it away and not nerves,” Belfast-born Loughrey said.

An accountant with Ernst and Young in Cork, Loughrey made his debut against Mayo in the league in 2013 and his first championship game against Limerick arrived shortly after.

He has previous experience of facing the Dubs in the capital's headquarters though the counties have moved in opposite directions since their paths last crossed three years ago.

Kevin McManamon, Dublin, tries to get past James Loughrey. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Kevin McManamon, Dublin, tries to get past James Loughrey. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

“I played against them in the 2013 championship and a couple of times in the league, semi-finals and final.

“We were competitive enough in the first half of both games, but collapsed because they targetted our kick-outs in the second-half, squeezed us and we couldn't get the ball out.

“I'd be very confident there won't be a repeat even though everyone can see they've gone up a number of levels since.

“One reason is a technical one...that we're extremely focused on winning the ball from our kick outs.

“Keepers, especially Stephen Cluxton, get a lot of credit for his, but it's the run and space created by his defenders which is the key to it.

“Mark (White) is a brilliant keeper and is able kick the ball anywhere, but if nobody is running and looking the ball then we're not going to get it.”

Cork come into the tie on the back of a resounding win over Laois, just like the demolition job done on Limerick in the Munster semi-final.

And while there was a vast improvement on the provincial final display from last term, defeat was still Cork's lot in a tight game, which could have gone either way.

Not backing up a good performance hangs over the team, but Loughrey believes there are obvious reasons.

“We know what bad is. It is not a fear, but basic thinks like working hard, keeping the ball, high intensity and aggression and just going for it.

“It's a self awareness. Everyone has to know what the basics are, just like an U10 or U12 match.

“We've been decent enough in the second game which is not hard to do because of the siege mentality.” 

Despite the obvious challenges posed by a lethal Dublin attack, Loughrey is relishing the prospect though mindful of the improvements needed in defence in particular from the Laois encounter.

“At times we weren't up to the usual high standards in defence, caught ball watching and that. And I include myself in that. That is criminal at this level.

“Dublin will have forwards as quick and as sharp as Donie Kingston last week, so we will have to be ready. Still, it's great to be playing into July and beyond."

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