Is club football too open in Cork?

Is club football too open in Cork?
Dr Crokes' Johnny Buckley after scoring his side's second goal against the Barrs. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

IF it’s hard to pick out one play that demonstrated why the monster task of taming Dr Crokes was beyond the Barrs, it’s only because there were so many possibilities.

For us, it was probably the first goal, just in the ruthless quality of Johnny Buckley in recognising that a handy point didn’t have to be tapped over and a game-changing score was on, and then in the sheer ease in which he turned making that decision to go for goal into an actual goal.

It made that statement that Dr Crokes could and would do whatever they wanted here, and in truth, they did that all afternoon in Killarney on Sunday. It wasn’t easy watching from a Cork point of view but it was exceptionally good to watch nonetheless, and a lesson to be learnt in putting together a team that can play football in an open attacking way that puts any argument about being impossible to create a successful kick-passing football team in modern football to bed.

Crokes opened the field out as they always do, created one-v-ones everywhere and trusted in their ability to have the skills to move the ball wherever they wanted, and it was just too much for the Barr’s to cope, too many gaps to fill all over an overworked defence against real high-quality attacking players.

It can be too simplistic to use every single defeat of a team representing Cork football as some kind of exhibit on the state of the game and still it was hardly unrepresentative of the Cork/Kerry relationship of recent times.

Ross O'Dwyer tackles Kieran O'Leary last weekend. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Ross O'Dwyer tackles Kieran O'Leary last weekend. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

A Cork team getting schooled by a Kerry team in the basics of football isn’t a new thing, which partly emphasises why last year’s reversal by Nemo Rangers was such a treat and referenced so much as potential.

Yet it still carries a message every time as another little reminder of the gulf in quality.

Crokes just did all the basics at a higher speed and with more awareness than the Barr’s, and it was sobering to note how fluidly they moved the ball and created scoring chances compared to the huff and puff of the Cork reps. All their goals had little moments in them that stood out for sheer game awareness and quality of decision marking — the Colm Cooper use of spaces, even the movement of David Shaw for the goal punched to the net.

Look, does it tell us something about club football in Cork that the champions of the county can be so thoroughly taken apart by Kerry’s champions? Nothing particularly that we didn’t already know perhaps.

Nemo are the only club who’ve made any impression at all outside Cork in the last 20 years, and the last team that weren’t from Capwell that won even a Munster title were Castlehaven in 1997.

This is partly a mentality thing, in that it’s been difficult for other clubs to refocus after winning a big county title, where Nemo have that natural confidence and feeling of belonging in that environment of Munster and All-Ireland finals.

It’s partly a Crokes phenomenon as well, the club having developed a particular dominance in recent times, constantly developing young talent and bringing them into an experience of winning big games that Cork clubs haven’t been able to cope with.

If there’s a worry, it’s possibly in the style of a defeat like this that asks questions of the standards and the type of football in Cork that has produced a St Finbarr’s side that just weren’t prepared for the relentless quality of Crokes.

The Kerry side generally put up huge scores — they hit 3-28, 2-19, 1-20, in various games in Kerry championship so it’s not like they struggle to create exactly at home either — and if they did seem to make it look disturbingly easy to pick open the Barr’s defence at times, well it’s not exactly been watertight in Cork either.

Duhallow racked up 2-14 in the final and Nemo scored at will in last year’s final. Cork club football has been that way in recent times, where if say football in parts of Ulster, in particular, has a rep for being tight and defensive where every score is earned, then keeping scores down here has been more of an issue.

There have been club games here where it seems every attack ends in a score. It’s hard to pick any club side in Cork that you’d call a strong defensive team or that you’d describe as difficult to score against, and you’re more likely to win a game with 1-16 than you are with 0-10.

Is this relevant to Cork football as a whole?

Can it learn something now?

Cork football’s most dominant player, Ian Maguire, got swallowed up by bodies at midfield and Steven Sherlock never got enough possession in danger areas.

Mostly, though, it felt like Cork’s way of doing things had been put in the shade again a little when exposed to the brighter lights of Kerry football.

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