CORK will need to deliver a full 60-minute performance against reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin next Saturday night.
Ephie Fitzgerald’s side got their Lidl National League campaign off to a winning start courtesy of a 3-15 to 2-6 win over Tipp last Friday.
Cork looked rusty early on and squandered numerous chances throughout the hour. Whatever was said during the interval had the desired effect as Cork outscored their opponents 2-6 to 0-2 after the break.
Fitzgerald introduced numerous substitutes but Daire Kiely and Libby Coppinger made the biggest impacts off the bench, combining for a crucial goal with 20 minutes to go.
So what did the Cork learn heading into their showdown with Dublin? Firstly, a repeat of last Friday’s first-half performance won't do. In fairness to Cork, it was the opening game of the season and mistakes were to be expected.
An inability to stop a constant stream of Tipp attacks combined with poor shooting in the first half an hour was concerning. On the plus side, 18 scores from open play and a 62% shooting success rate should please the Rebels management team.
An unfamiliar full-forward line comprising of Sadhbh O’Leary, Bríd O’Sullivan and Emma Cleary did well in a Cork team devoid of Doireann O’Sullivan and Áine Terry O’Sullivan (injured) and Saoirse Noonan (soccer).
Kinsale forward O’Leary stood out and contributed 1-3 in a Player of the Match performance.
What was noticeable about Cork’s forwards during the win over Tipp was the quality of their kick-passing. During the off-season, Ephie Fitzgerald spoke at length about Cork needing to alter their style of play. It will be interesting to see how that new tactical approach works against a more experienced Dublin back six.
Mourneabbey’s Máire O’Callaghan played a pivotal role in midfield and looks capable of holding down that position. O’Callaghan’s ability to knit defence with attack will be important if Cork are to vary their attacking angles against the All-Ireland champions.
The defensive statistics coming out of last Friday’s win over Tipp also made for positive reading. Conceding a meagre eight scores in total, five from play, and restricting Tipperary to two points during the entire second period will have pleased Ephie Fitzgerald.
Roisín Phelan had another terrific outing at full-back while Emma Spillane made a welcome return following a year out. Cork’s half-back line also excelled. Erika O’Shea, Melissa Duggan and Aisling Kelleher will be the springboard against the Dubs and showed they are up to the task in their league opener.
From a goalkeeping perspective, captain Martina O’Brien delivered another solid performance.
All in all, Ephie Fitzgerald’s panel looks in strong shape, albeit early in the season, ahead of a showdown with Dublin.
Victory is possible provided Cork perform for 60 minutes.