TAKEAWAYS from the senior football Super Sunday last weekend?
The high-scoring continues, winning scores of 5-13 and 3-14 are pretty noteworthy at this stage of competition. It’s hard to imagine a Cork team that couldn’t use Luke Connolly’s skills right now. Stephen Sherlock has raw talent to make a difference.
And there are still few things as thrilling or as crudely effective in Gaelic football as a really decent, well-timed goal.
For all the interest in tactical battles and kickout/anti-kickout strategies and defensive set-ups and the talk of tiny details and decisions that can win or lose matches, sometimes all we need is the ability to make that net shake at the right time to bend a game in a certain way.
Around midway through the second half of the Barrs/Carbery Rangers game — the Barrs were ahead at the time and looked more dynamic and sure of themselves but the champions were unlikely to just fall away coming into the last quarter — Michael Shields was in possession about 25/30 metres from goal on the right.
He’d just worked a bit of space and it looked to everyone watching like the handy option would be to take his point and then you could just sense a sudden shift in focus with the attack.
Shields passed up the point option, took the ball into contact to open a different angle, moved the ball past a couple of Carbery Rangers defenders and suddenly Rob O’Mahony’s left boot banged the ball into the top corner, game over.
It was the perfect example of the goal as match-winner.
It effectively ended the game and made a statement at the exact time it was needed, a real we’re-here-to-take-you-out today sort of message.
And it’d be almost impossible to explain why Michael Shields made that decision in possession, to break down what exactly he recognised at that moment to make the decision between tapping the ball over the bar and seeing a goal for the taking.
It’s not insignificant, this intelligence to know the difference between going for goal at the correct time and in the correct place on the pitch and in the correct way and just pure blind going for goals every single half-chance.
In hurling, Kilkenny had the instinct for it as a team at their peak, where they targetted killing games off at times when a certain space opened up and their goals nearly always seemed to be worth even more than three points.
I remember Colm Cooper talking about landing with the ball in the All-Ireland final in 2004 barely inside the Mayo 45 and just knowing there was a goal on.
There’s bravery but mainly cleverness and game know-how to make the call.
Think of say, Andy Moran’s decision when the chance opened up against Kerry in the semi-final replay and he could have taken the safer option but he was high on form and confidence and realised there was an opportunity to finish the game really and he went for it and nailed the match-winning goal.
Sometimes it’s sheer quality and brashness. Look at where Con O’Callaghan took possession of the ball for both his goals against Tyrone and Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final and final and goal chance doesn’t really process at all as an option yet twenty seconds later he’s raised green flags.
Even here in Cork goals have been a major influence in recent times.
Last year’s county final was really in the balance until Jerry O’Riordan zipped right down the middle of the field and instead of popping a ball out to a forward for a shot at a point he opened up space until an obvious goal chance presented for Chris O’Donovan to stick away.
The year before, Haven probably looked likelier winners until Paul Kerrigan sniffed a goal chance out for Barry O’Driscoll to change the game completely. It’s definitely something that’s in certain players.
Some forwards you can tell have a goal in their heads from the moment they get possession anywhere inside the opposition danger area and a point is almost a consolation for the times a goal becomes not possible.
Others can switch depending on the occasion, where they can tell that moment of weakness has appeared in the defence and there’s a goal chance to be created.
The most impressive one is that situation where almost anybody looking on wouldn’t be able to pick out a way of working a goal chance and the player in possession still sees something and has the mentality to go for it (like say Michael Shields last weekend, even more impressive as you’d have expected a player who’s spent most his time in defensive positions to not have that killer instinct).
That knack of knowing when to go for it was there in almost all the goals last Sunday.
The first Rob O’Mahony goal came from a situation on the left wing where O’Mahony himself could easily have tapped a point but he spotted a potential 2v1 inside and had the gumption to take it on.
The third Barrs’ goal was an absolute corker, the ball worked out of an extremely tight right-corner back slot through several pairs of hands, unleashed Ian Maguire down the middle of the field and again when plenty players would have tapped a score, Maguire had the know-how to create an extra man and Barrs had that ability to finish the move.
Nemo seem to have had this presence of mind and ability forever, this knack of being able to conjure goals up from nothing at the very right time.
Goal two and three especially against Duhallow were meaningful and represented the effect a goal can have on the opposition.
Duhallow had been battling away and were sort of hanging in there in general play without really having control of the game and then suddenly an opening developed for Luke Connolly to burst through and hammer a shot to the roof of the net.
He repeated that after half-time and you could feel all belief had been sucked out of Duhallow.
It was simple death by goals, where Nemo imposed their will on the game by showing over and over again how they were able to shatter their opponents whenever they needed to (they’d done something similar to St Nick’s last year).
It could well influence the county final, whichever team picks the right decision at the right time to go for goal.