BEFORE looking ahead to tomorrow’s game, I must acknowledge the official launch of Cairde Chorcaí.
This is a welcome development as it’s a support that many other counties have had in place for years. Cork inter-county teams have already benefitted from some external support in recent seasons but this official launch and collective approach can only help Cork GAA maximise development and performance in the coming years.
The big game in Thurles this Saturday is hard to call and similar to recent games there probably wont be much in it. Tipperary may have been taken for granted by some previously but things are certainly different now.
It’s a long time since Cork have gone in underdogs against a Munster opponent other than Kerry. Never the less considering results over the last few years it’s understandable that Tipperary are slight favorites particularly that they are at home.
League results were mixed but Ronan McCarthy was able to give youngster’s much needed experience. Newcomers Kevin Flahive and Mark White will have benefitted no doubt from example the home defeat to Clare and the away win in Down. Both very contrasting experiences but lessons learnt no doubt.
It’s an exciting team with plenty of attacking potential. We know if Cork gets plenty of quick-ball into the forward line they have ability to rack up big scores. It will be interesting to see how Luke Connolly progresses this year and to see will his excellent club form transfer through to inter-county.
This is complemented further out the field with the direct running from the likes of Tomás Clancy, Ian Maguire and Ruairí Deane combined with the play-making ability of Mark Collins and Sean White. This variety in players can make Cork harder to stop and unpredictable.
Considering last year’s performances Sean Powter and Donncha O’Connor are a loss but this is overcome by the return to fitness of Brian Hurley. It is great to see him back and he can provide serious impact off the bench alongside his brother Michael.
The challenge for Cork I feel is if their conversion rate is slightly down or turnover rate has increased for a period can they limit the damage that Tipperary do at the other end. This is a factor for all the team and not just the specific man-marking defenders.
In the league game in January this was an area Cork came unstuck in the second half as an increase in turnovers, swift Tipperary counter-attacking and slower defensive re-organisation led to the concession of 2-5. As it was early in the season fatigue may have been the main issue here resulting in poor decision-making and a lower work-rate. That shouldn’t be a concern this weekend.
As both teams have serious firepower it will be intriguing to see how the teams set up defensively to counter each others attacking threat.
One thing to admire from the Cork hurlers’ performance last weekend was the work-rate and defensive skills. Many possible Clare goal-scoring opportunities were limited due to some times desperate but intelligent cover tackling, hooking, and the closing down of space.
John Meyler and his management team on review of the game will be concerned with the amount of chances Clare were creating. Nonetheless they will be impressed with the desire to make up for defensive lapses and which made Clare earn every score.
The footballers could learn from this in that at some stage Saturday evening a Tipperary forward is going to slip past a Cork defender with the goal now under threat. It will be the reaction and desire of the other nearby Cork defenders, which may decide whether a goal is conceded or not.
This needs to be an instant decision to switch from marking my man to now marking the most dangerous man or just protecting the Cork goal. How often do we see players slowing down and being a spectator as an opponent bears down on goal.
Tipperary will bring a healthy aggression to the game and Cork will need to be ready for this. Tipperary, are bolstered by the return of Stephen O’Brien and the progress of Liam McGrath this year. They will feel a repeat of 2016 is certainly achievable.
Tipperary having to also deal with a six-day turn around since the Waterford win will only add fuel to their motivation and focus. Yes it’s an issue for administrators but similar to Manager Liam Kearns views the players will feel its disrespectful and they will question would it happen to Cork and Kerry.
It has the making of a great game and one Cork certainly can win. Tipperary will have periods of dominance but Cork must limit the damage and be clinical down at the other end. A good win and it can lay a platform for greater things this summer.
Special mention goes to Rena Buckley on her inter county retirement this week. To see the list of league and championships honors, it is some achievement.
No doubt Rena will acknowledge she was lucky to be part of talented teams with good managements, but to have the discipline, hunger, and consistency over such a long period and in 2 codes at the highest level makes her an outstanding athlete.
- @paudiekissane or www.pkperformance.ie.