THIS is Cork football 2018.
Another evening where hope and expectation of at least a performance showing something to build on and 10 minutes into the second half, most Cork fans were wondering where this ranked on the list of lows, just how much further things could tumble and looking for new words to describe this latest collapse.
It turns out that light at the end of the tunnel was just the train coming down the tracks.
There was a point, reasonably early in the first half as Cork turned over yet another ball by stumbling into a bunch of Tyrone bodies and then got caught wide open in defence, when the realisation sank in that Cork were just as naive and lacking any sort of ideas as they had been against Kerry.
It was a brutal, painful, embarrassing night in the end with all the limitations and realities of Cork football right now laid out for all to see.
The details of the game hardly seemed to matter when the big picture was so clear.
If we thought Cork might be more aware defensively after shipping 3-18 to Kerry, here it was 3-20 (even without that Kerry inside-forward trio) and it was remarkable to see Tyrone find spaces to run into and create chances and kick scores without any real intervention from Cork’s defensive players.
Tyrone created two goal chances in the first 10 minutes with Peter Harte especially allowed run from deep into open spaces. Niall Sludden kicked a point without being put under any pressure. Colm Cavanagh ran through the middle to kick a score without encountering a single resisting Cork body.
For Tyrone’s first goal, they won a Cork kickout without a battle at midfield, found a runner in behind the defence who got a shot at goal with one basic shimmy without any contact from a Cork player.
For the second goal, again Tyrone ran straight down the middle and got a support runner, Peter Harte again, through on Cork’s goal without any defender influencing play.
Tyrone ran ball into Cork’s scoring zone and were able to pick out inside-forwards with little dinked passes in one-v-one situations in front of Cork’s goal repeatedly — basically pick any of the scores as example.
Cork went man-v-man but just didn’t have anything like the aggression or defensive knowledge to stop Tyrone creating chances whenever they wanted.
Cork have had this defensive issue for an age and there was something startling to see the same naivety over and over here, where there just didn’t appear any obvious plan on how to fix the problem.
Again Cork got bossed in the middle third too.
Tyrone attacked the Cork long kickout (no blame on Mark White who did all he could here) and Cork’s half-press on Niall Morgan’s kicks was easily bypassed.
The collisions and spaces were controlled by Tyrone, who looked like a team with a clear conviction and plan about how to move the ball and how to stop the ball moving into the right scoring areas.
Cork carried ball into contact down the middle, like a team who’d never been told exactly how Tyrone set up defensively.
Luke Connolly and Brian Hurley were roving outside the 45 midway through the first half and it was obvious that Cork had no proper ideas about how to create chances beyond individuals running the ball and hoping to find spaces — Cork were never able to get their scoring players on the ball in the places they needed to, a fairly clear malfunction on any attacking system, and only managed one score from play from their inside-forward line while the game was a contest.
There are no hiding places here.
Cork knew exactly what the coming against Kerry and Tyrone but players and management were unable to locate or execute any kind of performance or plan faced with the pressure and intensity of a Division 1 team.
Again Cork looked a few years behind a top team physically — the tackles and lines broken against Tipperary were never repeated against Kerry or here.
Again it was difficult to find any sense of progression tactically between the start of the year and this, where you could point to a line or area on the field and give a clear description of what they were meant to be doing.
Tyrone had patterns and combinations of runners from midfield up especially that indicated a definite style of football but there was no evidence in anything Cork did that suggested what kind of team they want to be or hinted at work done.
Cork looked a team playing a game 10 years ago as football moved on without them.
Ronan McCarthy was brought in to add positivity and steel and it’ll hurt him that these two performances have blown away both and exposed how far away Cork have drifted and that he needs to start again from scratch (but how and with what?).
The players weren’t able to make up the difference with any hint of belief or manic hunger to alter the flow of the game and the questions on whether the players are there/ not there will crop again; the mental scars from another collapse will linger either way.
There’s just this gulf now where Cork football hasn’t developed any kind of culture for competing and progressing with the big boys and talk of transitions can’t adequately explain this kind of collective failure over and over.
It’s genuinely tough to describe the hopelessness that surrounds Cork football people now.
There are ways to lose games and end seasons and a county doesn’t suffer these total wipeout defeats year after year unless there’s something seriously deficient at the heart of it.
It felt like another lost year and yet another bottoming out even after so many of those already.
This is Cork football 2018.