THERE has been many opinions given in recent days regards the current standing of Cork football. No doubt it’s been a tough time for those directly connected with the team.
Obviously, things must change or improve but lessons can be learnt from elite teams in other sports that with change great things can happen.
Look at the All Blacks, probably the most successful sports team in history. The All Blacks have not always been so dominant. A heavy defeat to South Africa back in 2004 laid the foundations for World Cup success in 2011 and 2015.
It was felt the culture was wrong in that players were happy to be an All Black rather than win as an All Black, which led to unsatisfactory standards and poor behaviour on and off the field.
Instead, a player leadership group was set up and players were given more ownership of what needed to be done to improve. The first step was players understanding it was a privilege to be an All Black and that better people will make better All Blacks.
Belgium were defeated by France in the recent World Cup semi-final but still, Belgium have been one of the positive stories of this year's World Cup. Twenty years previous it wasn’t so bright as Belgium limped out of the group stages of the World Cup in France.
It was time for change and time was spent reviewing how Belgium was training its next generation of talented players. Comparisons were made with Ajax and Barcelona who were leaders in youth player development at that time.
Lessons were learnt which led to new facilities, a change in coaching methods used and specific training of coaches. It took time but Belgium now has some of the best players in the world and a national team to be proud of.
The Great Britain women’s hockey team won gold at the Rio Olympics 2016. This team finished sixth in 2008. That might not seem such a bad result but for an ambitious group who wanted to improve, it was seen as a major disappointment.
The coaching team realized this also and this was the turning point for future success. The players went full time but the key was the environment and support provided to the players.
Nutritionists, sports psychologists, strength & conditioning staff were now much more readily available to the players. This created the platform for the coaching staff and players alike to maximize their preparation time together, giving them the greatest chance of success.
Culture, coaching, and player support systems are just three examples of factors, which held back elite teams in other sports. The best teams can have their dark days too but with honesty and ambition, things can change for the better again.
Looking ahead to the start of the Super 8s this weekend there are some great games in prospect.
Tralee in March would have been a trial run for Kerry on how to deal with Galway’s new system. Both teams will bring that cynical edge which will be influenced by the strictness of the referee. The good teams will do what they can get away with.
You only have to look at the officiating of the penalty box area at set pieces in World Cup in Russia to see the influence of the referee. No more blatant pulling and dragging leading to an increase in set-piece goals.
Considering Cork's demise the question now is how primed are this Kerry team for Croke Park. Looking back at the league encounter with Galway the use of possession again will be key.
Galway’s kick-out can be exploited and Kerry already did this in Tralee winning five long Galway kick-outs in a row in the second half. On that day Kerry didn’t take full advantage due to a combination of very windy conditions and poor shot selection. This included two goal chances. Weather conditions will no doubt be better this Sunday so Kerry could make hay.
Challenge for Galway is bringing full intensity from the start. Standoff like the first half versus Roscommon and Kerry will just play around them. Push up at the right time and force turnovers can ask questions of Kerry.
On occasions, Kerry couldn’t deal with Galway’s direct explosive running in the league, which in the end proved the difference between the teams.
Paddy McBrearty is a major loss for Donegal but naturally, there is less expectation now and it might even take pressure off Donegal’s younger players.
Laois caused the Dublin full-back line some difficulty in the Leinster final with the high ball so wouldn’t be surprised to see Michael Murphy at 14 for a spell.
A varied attacking plan was a strength of Donegal’s approach under Jimmy McGuinness. It seems to be back this year under Declan Bonner but McBrearty is now very hard to replace. A win might be a step too far but a good performance and Donegal can push on the following week.
Tyrone and Kildare seem well matched physically so it will be intriguing to see which team can execute its game plan more effectively.
The questions are can Kildare keep up their proficiency in front of goal facing into a better ‘blanket defence’ and how will Tyrone respond if they do go a few points behind early on.
Winning and the momentum it brings, plus the large Kildare following could propel Kildare to another big victory over Monaghan. The game will hinge on potency in front of goal. Can Kildare keep up their shooting accuracy, which on many occasions has been their biggest weakness?
In the final game, Roscommon will need to show they can grind out a win. In an open game they are a great team to watch but can lose their way. Tyrone with their specific system will test Roscommon’s ability to bounce back from a barren spell.
CONTACT: @paudiekissane www.pkperformance.ie