ONE thing that stood out last week was the pure joy in players after winning big championship games.
It was heartbreak for Clare and Mayo in contrast to the massive delight for Kildare and Armagh.
Most players start off with the dreams of wearing the county jersey and winning big games. While it’s never a sacrifice to play inter-county there is still a big commitment with your life revolving around it. It requires a selfishness with daily decisions been made on how a player can improve their performance and maximise potential.
Therefore losing big games, injuries, being a substitute can be hard to deal with at times because that is not what you want. Unfortunately in sport, most players will lose a lot more than they will win but then again to achieve anything worthwhile in life requires hard work with the journey involving many disappointments on route.
When things do come together individually and collectively though then it’s some feeling. It’s never literally life or death but still, it can mean so much. It’s experiencing the feeling of disappointment, which can make the winning so sweet.
The present Dublin team has a special quality in that irrespective of the success they have experienced there is still a massive drive and hunger to commit and achieve more.
Looking ahead to Corks huge qualifier game versus Tyrone, it’s a big challenge no doubt but one I think players will look forward to. The Kerry result can’t be changed now but certainly with the right attitude Cork can respond with a big performance similar to the Mayo game last year.
Questions remain for Tyrone after last year’s semi-final defeat to Dublin. These doubts were magnified further after the recent loss to Monaghan in the Ulster championship.
Tyrone appear to possess the physical qualities, which are certainly crucial to ensure you are competitive against the best. It is tactical organisation and decision-making which will prove the difference once you reach the latter stages.
The question remains for Tyrone is if they are matched physically will the team fall short like what happened versus Dublin last year.
There was a psychological element to Tyrone’s semi-final performance last year and the defeat was not just down to Dublin’s excellent strategy and performance on the day. Tyrone will have to beat Cork first though if they are to prove the Dublin game was just a bad day at the office.
Tyrone’s standout players presently would be Matthew Donnelly, Peter Harte and Niall Sludden. All three players will need particular attention as they all possess the pace and ability to avoid contact and either create or convert scoring opportunities.
Where this can become an issue for Cork is if they turn possession over cheaply between the 65- and 45-yard line in the Tyrone half. You don’t expect Tyrone’s system to change so in general play Tyrone will set up to press Cork in this zone.
This proved Cavan’s undoing last weekend. Playing against teams with extra bodies back, you just got to accept at times it will be congested but with patience, clever movement and quick use of the ball and then the blanket defence can be made look porous.
Cheap turnovers by Cork here and who knows who might end up tracking Harte or Donnelly who will come from deep at pace. Both players drifted in and out of the Cavan game but still when in possession you could sense a greater danger to the Tyrone counter attack. Also, they showed leadership when required in the last quarter.
On a side note, it’s interesting to see a Tyrone or Monaghan team getting lambasted by many for a negative approach whereas when a Kerry or Dublin team resorts to 14 men behind the ball and fouling then it’s considered good team defensive play!
The way Tyrone set up may allow Cork use the short kick-out option more. This may be one of the reasons behind Brian O’Driscoll been selected instead of Aidan Walsh. Short kick-outs may guarantee possession but Cork will still be a long way from the Tyrone goal.
Playing against Tyrone previously I remember they were vulnerable if Cork won long kick-outs cleanly or through quick movement of the ball after winning a breaking ball. In this scenario, you were attacking into space rather than meeting a wall of Tyrone players. So on the flip side if Tyrone’s kick-out goes long which they do regularly then Walsh’s height would be a loss here.
Tyrone drop many players back so this should free up Sean White to play further up the field which is a plus while also ensuring Cork have an option at centre-forward to receive an early pass.
The ability to score a couple of points from distance will be key plus Michael Hurley’s pace and trickery will help get through Tyrone’s congested defence.
Playing against this type of system is different to the way Kerry play but still, it’s nothing new for this Cork team as many teams in Division 2 this year set up this way. Performances in the league were mixed for the Cork team so Saturday will tell if lessons have been learnt from those games. The Clare performance in March is one that particularly sticks in the memory. While only conceding fourteen points, Cork were repeatedly punished on the counter-attack.
Getting the basics right plus good use of possession, are vital for Cork. Yes, hard work will also be needed in spades also but more will be required to achieve success on Saturday evening.
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