NO surprises down the Páirc on Sunday afternoon.
This looked very much like a modern Division 2 league game on the first weekend in February on a pitch not entirely suited for fluent attacking (not entirely suited for anything).
Cork and Kildare both played a 2-10-2 formation, packed their defensive 45 with bodies without the ball and that inevitably led to long periods of possession while players tried to figure out how to create chances.
As early as the fifth minute you could have done one of those pictures showing all of one team inside their own half.
Just before half-time, Kildare had what felt like several minutes of passing back and across the pitch – or hours even, people in the crowd became distracted and started actually having conversations – without getting a score.
In the end, Cian O’Neill’s side were just a little more advanced in their game plan, did slightly more in controlling the ball and managing the game in the second half and Cork weren’t clinical enough with their chances to grind out a win. It wasn’t a particularly engaging or enjoyable watch.
Zero points were picked up. Any success will have to be filed under learning.
For Cork, it’s an indication of the road ahead and how they’ve decided to travel.
Ronan McCarthy has made reference to knowing what needs to be done and it looks like Cork will be set-up basically to stay in games by making themselves as tough to break down as possible.
Mark Collins and Tomas Clancy were named as half-forwards but spent a lot of their time from loose play in a sweeper zone in front of their full-back line. At one point Clancy pressed his man up around wing-forward and when the ball was switched, turned and ran swiftly back into that sweeper position without looking at where the play was developing.
And really most the Cork team shifted into spaces behind the ball when out of possession.
In some form it worked as Cork were rarely opened up in defence (the penalty came when the defender slipped) or isolated in one-v-ones in the full-back line and 11 scores isn’t a bad tally to concede.
In another way, Cork rarely pressed the ball aggressively or hunted in packs and were a bit too willing to allow Kildare time to develop movements and it’s difficult to analyse the effectiveness of individual defenders in a system where they’re rarely required to actively defend.
The tricky part is managing a different focus here, in having that security while being able to find enough scores to win games and again ten points just isn’t enough.
It didn’t help that Luke Connolly, lively and handling well otherwise and one ball he floated to Ruairi Deane for a mark near goal was a wonder, had one of those days where the radar wasn’t quite working and he would nail at least half of his missed frees here most days out.
But Cork didn’t look fluent or have a shape otherwise with the ball and lacked combinations of runners moving in twos or threes.
At one stage in the first half Eoghan McSweeney took a kick-pass on the counter-attack around halfway and when he turned there was no option ahead or near him and that happened too often for Cork to get any kind of flow.
Cork struggled to move forward in numbers or to get enough players near the ball or ahead of the ball to create spaces when in transition from defence to attack.
Michael Hurley, of course, looked a bright spark.
Five points from play is serious scoring reward for his general liveliness and willingness to take a shot on – there’s definitely something in that jink to find spaces and that confidence to back his ability - but he was the only starting player who scored from play.
Ruairí Deane was unlucky in the one time he got a clear run at the Kildare defence his blaster was touched off the bar by the keeper.
Generally though the Cork attacking plan looked unfinished, like it’ll take some time for players to figure out when and where they can attack.
There’s a fair bit of work in forming a coherent whole here and it’ll take some time to know how it plays out.
No surprises, Cork are playing catch up in different ways.