Graham Cummins: A change in formation could get Cork City firing up front

Analysis from the loss to Athlone and how the Rebel Army can start hitting the net again
Graham Cummins: A change in formation could get Cork City firing up front

Gearoid Morrissey, Cork City, action against Athlone Town. Picture: Larry Cummins

THREE points from three games is not a good enough return for Cork City. 

Although we saw was an improved performance from their defeat against Cabinteely, it was a similar story against Athlone Town on Friday – a lot of possession without ever really causing Adrian Carberry’s team too many problems.

City looked good against Athlone when they moved the ball quickly, but far too often, players were taking too many touches, which allowed Athlone to get back behind the ball and defend in numbers. City didn’t vary their attacking play enough to create. 

Ronan Hurley taking the ball out of defence. Picture: Larry Cummins
Ronan Hurley taking the ball out of defence. Picture: Larry Cummins

It seemed that their plan was to give the ball to Dylan McGlade and Cian Bargary and hope that they could create some magic. McGlade and Bargary did cause problems at times and were trying to be positive but they don’t always have to try and beat a man when in possession. 

Sometimes, the best thing a winger can do is get half a yard and put an early cross into the box. I don’t think City put enough crosses in the box and I would have been very frustrated with the service, or lack of, I was getting if I was Jack Walsh.

Unsurprisingly, City manager Colin Healy made two changes to the side that were defeated by Cabinteely last weekend, with Jonas Hakkinen – making his debut – replacing Jack Baxter, and Walsh coming into the side after impressing in his cameo against Cabinteely to replace Cian Murphy.

Walsh’s performance was one of the positives from City’s game against Athlone. He worked hard, held the ball up and on another day could have got on the scoresheet. 

He was clever by deciding to play up against Athlone centre-back Dylan Hand, who is a lot smaller than Walsh, and the former Avondale player got a lot of joy playing against Hand. Walsh is a very different player to Cian Murphy who had started the previous two games. 

City went long to Walsh in the beginning of the match and tried to play off his flick-ons. The players knew they could trust Walsh to hold up the ball when they played into his feet and the striker also showed just nice touches with difficult balls into his chest throughout the game. 

Walsh will feel he should have hit the target in the first half but for a player making his first start, he should be very pleased with how he did. 

I still feel Walsh would benefit from someone playing up alongside him.

Hakkinen came into the side meaning Cian Coleman moved from centre-back into midfield. Coleman impressed me in his two performances in defence and that position suits him much more than playing in the number 10 role. 

For me, when Coleman does play in midfield it should be as a box-to-box player, not someone playing just off the striker. 

Hakkinen made the mistake that lead to the goal but up until that point looked comfortable enough in the match. What really impressed me is how vocal he was for someone making their debut for the club. Hakkinen does seem very relaxed, perhaps too relaxed. 

I do expect him to improve as the season goes on.

Cian Coleman battling for the ball in the air against Athlone Town. Picture: Larry Cummins
Cian Coleman battling for the ball in the air against Athlone Town. Picture: Larry Cummins

Alec Byrne was another positive for City. There were a lot of City players who seemed to panic when they got the ball, but Byrne was certainly not one of them. He always shows for the ball and looks calm in possession when he does get it. 

I was surprised that he was taken off considering he was City’s best midfielder on the night.

James Doona got the winning goal for Athlone and he caused City right-back Steven Beattie a lot of problems. The former St Pat's player drifted into a lot of good positions making it difficult for Beattie to pick him up. 

Looking at Beattie because he was the marquee signing, he looked like a player that feels under a lot of pressure. He is one of the experienced players in the team and a lot is expected of him. 

Beattie seems to be trying to hard and instead of doing things simply he is trying to overcomplicate things. 

There were occasions in the game the former Sligo Rovers player should have just passed the ball but opted to try and take on two or three Athlone players because he probably feels he needs to do something special in the game.

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