PREVIEWING the game last week key areas identified for Cork were winning the possession battle, good use of the ball, taking an early goal chance plus building on the intensity defensively from the Tipperary game.
Cork converted their goal chances but lost the contest in all other areas. This provided the platform for Kerry to shoot a massive score.
Cork started on the front foot with Ruairí Deane cutting through the Kerry defence and creating two tap-in goals for Jamie Sullivan and Mark Collins.
Kerry responded with a cracking Stephen O’Brien goal, but when Luke Connolly followed up with classy point of the weaker left leg to make it 2-1 to 1 you felt Cork got exactly the start all Cork supporters were hoping for. Kerry have a high quality-attacking unit but early indications were that Cork would ask serious questions of the Kerry rearguard.
Unfortunately, apart from the first 10 minutes strategy and execution let Cork down and it turned into a very dispiriting night.
Defensively Cork set up similar to the Tipperary game with Seán White dropping back to the half-back line, freeing up Stephen Cronin. Seán White dropping back though meant Cork had no distinct number 11 option, to offer direction to the attack and be an outlet for a kick-ass.
Irrespective of the number of the jersey Cork just needed a consistent ball-winning option up front but they just didn’t happen on the night. Credit to Kerry backs too in that when Cork did go more direct, the Kerry backs were close enough to get a hand in or force a fumble of possession.
The option of running possession through the lines wasn’t an option either through Kerry’s top eight’s hard work and intensity in the tackle.
This delayed Cork’s transition, which led to many soft turnovers in the middle zone of the field. Losing possession here meant at times Cork didn’t have the extra defender at the back and were further exposed.
Cork’s warm-up involved holding possession in small grids something Dublin use regularly themselves in their warm-ups.
These games can be effective reducing the time a player has on the ball, speeding up their decision-making, or increasing the number of tackling opportunities.
Unfortunately, Cork’s use of possession in the game was similar to the warm-up games in that possession was too narrow, static in tight areas which made it easier for Kerry to tackle and force turnovers.
Kerry were cute too in that after a soft turnover, if there was an opportunity for a Kerry forward to foul, they would. This consequently delayed Cork’s attack on occasion, which allowed Kerry to reset defensively.
Kerry also, in contrast, were able to transition much easier. Sean White dropping deep contributed to it as Kerry now had an extra player, starting there own counter attacks. It takes savage teamwork to nullify this but as a unit this didn’t happen.
Traditionally as always for Kerry the kick pass was the number one option but similarly, players were sprinting hard into space if the kick-pass option wasn’t on. Gavin White’s pace gives them extra dimension going forward also.
If Kerry had a monopoly of possession then Cork were always going to be under pressure defensively. Alongside the poor use of possession Cork lost too many of there own kick-outs.
Setting up for Cork’s kick-outs, Cork has an extra man in the full-back line while Kerry had a spare man around midfield, half forward area. Cork were unable utilise their spare man and instead, Kerry were ready to attack Cork’s long kick-outs. Kerry certainly had their homework done from the Cork’s Tipperary performance.
In the first half alone David Clifford scored Kerry’s first point after Seán O’Shea won a great kick-out with a diagonal run out wide. The remaining scores came from Cork errors with five scores after winning Cork kick-outs and six scores from Cork turnovers.
Kerry had a seven-point half-time lead and once Kerry started the second half with a Paul Geaney goal and a converted 45 from Seán O’Shea it was curtains for Cork. Ian Maguire tried valiantly to get Cork going again but while Kerry were sloppy themselves they were still able to keep the scoreboard ticking over too easy.
There are days when the other teams get a purple patch and gets a few quick scores. Cork need to develop the ability to deal with this, limit the damage and turn things back around quickly again.
This can happen to the best teams. Dubin lost six of their own kick-outs in the first half of the All-Ireland last year and only for Con Callaghan early goal, Mayo would have been deservedly four points up at halftime and in the driving seat.
The black cards were not the winning or losing of the game but still the rule itself is daft. Implement yellow cards effectively and there would be no need for the black card.
Ruairí Deane’s black card was a disgrace. He was proving to be Cork key attacking weapon early on with crowd noise levels rising every time he gained possession. Its one thing making an error with the yellow card but an error with a black card and the player is gone from the game, which is too much of a punishment for a refereeing mistake.
It’s difficult to know where Cork goes from here in the short term. There will be lads seriously hurting after this and it’s hard to measure the damage of the result to confidence and ambition in the short term.
Hopefully, they will re-group and turn it around quickly. One win and Cork are guaranteed a minimum of three more games.
Ronan McCarthy’s mantra all year is about staying steady whether after a big win or bad defeat. There is never more a need for it now while an in-depth review is still required. Honesty is needed but with right attitude, they can certainly go again. It’s just a choice they need to make.
Contact: @paudiekissane www.pkperformance.ie