Is there any end in sight to the gloom for Cork football fans?

Is there any end in sight to the gloom for Cork football fans?

Paul Kerrigan of Cork in action against Tommy Prendergast and Brian Looby of Waterford. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Peter McNamara

Football

IT'S like one of those arguments you have with a friend that never truly matured, isn’t it?

At first, you’re frustrated, even angry and try to talk sense into them. 

Park it, move on is your angle. They are, however, hopelessly incapable of letting bygones be bygones.

After a while, though, the anger on your part subsides and is replaced by apathy.

Unfortunately, that is the sense of strain felt towards Cork’s senior footballers presently by the Leeside public.

The anger has long since subsided. Apathy clouds the air. It seems that even the diehards have ceased caring all that much anymore. 

It’s gotten to that point. In fact, the cloud hanging over this season has become so dull that some have even suggested losing to Tipperary in the Munster SFC semi-final could be a blessing in disguise.

After all, the damage Kerry, assuming they defeat Clare, could inflict may be both embarrassing and irreparable. That’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

However, that’s how it is.

Of course, the County Board’s coffers could really do with a Cork-Kerry provincial final in the state-of-the-art Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Yet, what benefit would it be to the code in Cork if such a fixture comes to pass in this particular campaign?

Yes, those close to the group might put a case forward that the Rebels’ entire season has been tailored so that they soar against the Premier and drive on further still when Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s Allianz NFL Division 1 champions knock at the front door.

And, obviously, Leesiders would hope they are right. Nevertheless, everybody appreciates how trying it can be to make an attempt at producing a match-winning performance in the championship on the back of a run of uninspiring form.

Cork have sleep-walked their way to this juncture of the year. It will take a monumental effort by all involved to snap themselves out of this malaise now.

I still believe they could because the quality of player within the panel is exceptional. However, a number of team components have to change.

To begin with, the midfield to tackle Liam Kearns’ Premier should be Mark Collins and James Loughrey.

Collins’s stationing in this sector needs no real explanation given his unbelievable engine, dynamism and capacity to link play between the half-back line and half-forward line.

Collins, along with John O’Rourke, Colm O’Neill and Paul Kerrigan, form the Rebels’ most proficient quartet.

However, there is no value in possessing such excellent attack-minded individuals without having a terrier roaming the middle-third to generate possessions for them.

Step forward Loughrey. If you watch Loughrey closely you can’t help but feel he would be of greater benefit to the team operating further up-field.

James Loughrey of Cork in action against Stephen Prendergast of Waterford. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
James Loughrey of Cork in action against Stephen Prendergast of Waterford. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

The Mallow man should be deployed in a role akin to Michael Darragh Macauley for Dublin. The latter adds manic intensity to the All-Ireland champions’ make-up and Loughrey has the attributes to contribute similar performances for Cork.

A Collins-Loughrey midfield axis would offer more balance in the area.

O’Rourke should then be handed the No 11 jersey tasked with orchestrating Cork’s attacking sextet. The Carbery Rangers’ forward is the ideal fulcrum. Positioning him on the wing means you inadvertently stifle him a little.

Speaking of O’Rourke and Rosscarbery, should more of their team be considered for selection for Cork?

Carbery Rangers are consistently competing for honours in the Cork SFC these days yet O’Rourke was the only player of theirs to feature on the match-day 26 in Fraher Field on Saturday night.

John O'Rourke of Carbery Rangers in action against Colm Moran of Monaleen. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
John O'Rourke of Carbery Rangers in action against Colm Moran of Monaleen. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

A similar argument can be made for those that play with Ballincollig. Like Rosscarbery, Ballincollig were also finalists in the county senior football championship last year but not one of their players were deemed good enough to be included last Saturday evening.

Look, maybe, when it boils down to it, there isn’t any other player or players from those two squads capable of holding their own at the highest level. However, until more of them are actually given a proper opportunity to showcase their worth, how are we to ever know?

It’s far too late to be adding completely untested club performers this year. Still, though, more consideration needs to be afforded players from the senior clubs that seem to regularly challenge for the county title, from next season onwards.

And I don’t mean see what they’re made of in a few poxy challenge games at the start of the campaign. Road-test their credentials in the league. See if they sink or swim. A few of them might surprise people.

After all, if the management is willing to start with personnel that play at a lower level than senior with their clubs, then surely more of the senior club operators should be given the chance to stake a claim. That’s basic logic.

Despite a lot of criticism being laid at the management’s door, the current unit of players will acknowledge that they are underperforming too.

In a host of league encounters their wide counts were far too high and profligacy and wastefulness cost them a sounder result than was achieved against Waterford as well.

On the plus side, scoring opportunities are being created so it’s not as if the team is particularly bereft of ideas.

However, if they fail to hit the ground running next Saturday week at Páirc Uí Rinn Tipp will dump Cork into the qualifiers for consecutive championships.

Word is their great escape in Dungarvan will rattle them into life for their upcoming assignment.

The players are aware themselves they are not producing the standard of performances worthy of their talents. They’re not deluded, in fairness.

One massive performance and victory against Tipp will guarantee Peadar Healy’s charges a place in the last 12 of the All-Ireland series, of course.

If Cork managed to achieve that objective they would have a free shot at Kerry in a provincial decider.

And even though that particular game could turn out to be a horror show regardless, at least they would have a second opportunity to reach an All-Ireland quarter-final.

With a view to regrouping for next year finishing this season having at least contested a match that deep into the championship would be a positive.

However, at this rate they’re greatest achievement in 2017 would be to reignite the fire among their disgruntled supporters.

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