Cork footballers just aren't wily enough yet to tip scales in their favour

Cork footballers just aren't wily enough yet to tip scales in their favour
Cork's Jamie O'Sullivan and Sam Ryan tackles Conor Sweeney of Tipperary. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

THIS shouldn’t feel like a surprise. 

When the teams filtered through during the week the thought occurred that Tipp had the more accomplished, more complete 15 at a different stage of development to Cork’s and so it proved in the end. Tipp stormed the Páirc to send out a statement for the year; they had more game knowhow on the ball, were more clinical with their goal chances and just had the more quality matchwinners on the field in the necessary positions. 

Cork were extremely game and energetic but just lacked the experience and ability to control the game and made costly errors at both ends of the pitch when it mattered that were brutally punished. Cork and Tipp went toe-to-toe and if the game could have swung either way on small details, Ronan McCarthy’s team are learning on the job and will lose games like this as much as win them. This revolution was never likely to be painless.

Cork had rookies in more or less every line on the pitch and the performance was as raw and mixed as you’d expect. The players really tried hard to do the right thing here and were full of intent to win their individual battles but lacked the overall fluency and cohesion of Tipp in the second half especially. Cork’s middle eight dominated the second quarter with sheer willingness to compete and run hard but with a basic strategy from kick-outs of getting the ball up in the air for a battle for possession, they lost an awful lot of breaks from those restarts in the second half especially. 

The defence will take some heat for another big score given up. Not many teams in Division 2 will have the scoring power for 3-16 in fairness. 

The full-back line actually held up quite well in the individual one-v-one battles for long spells but there was a sense of danger every time the ball went in long and there wasn’t that collective unit to help out a defender in trouble when necessary. Micheal McSweeney got isolated with Michael Quinlivan in the wrong place for Tipp’s second goal and the outcome seemed inevitable from the second the Tipp forward had the ball in his hand. 

The first goal had come from a long ball that broke on the edge of the square where Cork were outnumbered, the third came from again getting caught open right in the middle of the goal and it may be that Cork will be vulnerable to goals here while they learn to cover and figure out how to protect the goal from certain positions on the field. Even Quinlivan’s goal came from a Cork turnover coming out with ball from defence. 

Cork’s defenders didn’t get completely burnt at any stage but the worry will be conceding that many chances and looking so generally insecure in those circumstances; there will be a lot of training ground defensive work in the months ahead.

Tipperary's Bill Maher and Sean White of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Tipperary's Bill Maher and Sean White of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Most of Cork’s good moments were individual bursts of quality – one really standout team move involving two kick-passes and Sean White (who was probably the best and most heavily involved of the new faces) placing Mark Collins down the right wing for a point apart. There hasn’t been time to develop any obvious attacking patterns or links yet. 

The kick-passing to the inside-forward line of Collins and Stephen Sherlock didn’t really stick often enough to work though the two still looked sharp and able to create chances for themselves and kicked six points from play. Sherlock recovered well from his missed penalty at the end of the first half, and yes, that probably would have altered the momentum of the game, to score two sharp points. Colm O’Neill came in to score 1-1. 

Cork’s running game provided the goal with a powerful burst from Ruairí Deane and a couple of other goal chances from Ian Maguire runs down the centre but there wasn’t quite enough lines broken or Tipp defenders taken out of the game in the middle third consistently to provide a sustained platform of scoring chances. Sean Powter gave one powerful cameo of his explosiveness, intercepting a kick pass across goal from a Tipp defender to punch over the bar for a quite unique-looking point. Cork couldn’t quite get him in the game before he pulled up in the second half. 

Cork had a decent second quarter especially when they moved the ball with more purpose but as with the defence, there wasn’t yet a feeling that the players were moving as a unit, that the half-forwards knew where to run say when Ian Maguire had the ball or that the half-back line knew where to look on the pitch for an out ball to kick long when it was needed. Cork players got isolated running the ball or picked passes that were forced and again, the training ground will be busy in trying to develop link-ups to the attacking play.

There just wasn’t quite enough moments of quality and too much poor execution on the ball to win a game in the end. Tipp had real standouts in Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney and Liam McGrath hit 2-3 from play and they gave Cork a little reminder here of the realities on the challenge of playing catch up here. 

Cork need work and they need time.

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