Cork defenders pointed the way to a Munster football final with Kerry

Rebel forwards struggled against massed ranks of players shoring up the paths to goal allowing those at the back to prosper instead
Cork defenders pointed the way to a Munster football final with Kerry

You chase me! That's the thinking of Cork defender Sean Powter as he eludes Danny Neville of Limerick during the Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds. INPHO/James Crombie.

IT’S not often twice as many defenders as forwards get on the score sheet at inter-county level, but that was the case in Cork’s 1-16 to 0-11 Munster semi-final win over Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday.

If you were told before the start that neither Luke Connolly nor debutant Dan O Duinnin would register a score between them, you’d have feared for Cork’s prospects of reaching another provincial decider.

It’s a somewhat bizarre statistic that only two Cork forwards, John O’Rourke and Brian Hurley who scored 1-3 and 0-6 respectively, would bother the scoreboard operator while four defenders managed to find the range.

Sean Powter nailed a couple of important points before the break and while he exited the scene after 41 minutes, his replacement Cian Kiely repeated the trick.

The Ballincollig defender popped up just before the second water-break to help Cork to a 1-11 to 0-9 lead and Kiely fisted over a second from a Kevin Flahive pass to stretch the advantage to six points in the 64th minute.

Mattie Taylor was another to entice the umpire to reach for his white flag in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time to edge Cork 1-6 to 0-4 clear at the interval.

Limerick's Robert Childs and Mattie Taylor of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Limerick's Robert Childs and Mattie Taylor of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

And to round off the afternoon centre-back Sean Meehan showed the enthusiasm and fitness of youth to complete the scoring 75 minutes in.

Cork’s remaining score came from captain Ian Maguire approaching the first-half water-break, the team’s first point from play.

Limerick’s massed ranks of defenders nullified the threat posed by Connolly and Ó Duinnín and it was only late in the game that Hurley managed to find space and time to plan his couple from play. Connolly did have chances from difficult long-range frees and another from an acute angle well out on the right.

And while Limerick will be rightly pleased at restricting Cork to just a second-minute goal the fact that defenders were allowed roam forward and score showed that withdrawing so many players behind the ball isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

The trouble is that zonal defending doesn’t require man-marking as such, a case of maybe too many cooks et al.

Powter’s brace were a clear example as the Douglas player weaved himself into space and was able to nail his points without a finger laid on him.

Powter and exciting rookie full-back Daniel O’Mahony didn’t finish the game, but both are expected to be fit for the final against Kerry in Killarney on Sunday week at 4pm.

“We managed to get fellows out before doing any real damage which would have them missing out the next day,” said manager Ronan McCarthy afterwards.

Young Nemo Rangers defender Briain Murphy added to the list of debutants when introduced for O’Mahony after 50 minutes.

It’s been some rise in his career considering he only joined the panel recently, but obviously has impressed enough in training to merit a place in a very competitive panel and then get the nod, as well.

Ó Duinnín was joined by Brian Hartnett and Paul Walsh in the list of newcomers to championship and hard-hitting Limerick didn’t stand on ceremony.

“At times they found the going difficult, but that was to be expected.

“I thought Daniel played really well in the first half, attacking the ball and driving the team forward which is great for a guy so young. It’s how we want to play.

“And both he and Brian Hartnett can feel well pleased with their efforts.

“Cian Kiely was unlucky not to make the team and made a difference when he came in.

“And it was the same with Kevin O’Driscoll and Mark Collins who made sure we were sensible with the ball when we needed to be sensible. I thought Kevin had a brilliant league for us and was also unlucky not to be starting.

“We have that calibre of player to come on and more to come back as well. We feel we’re in a good place,” McCarthy concluded.

It was great to see Michael Hurley back in action as well for his first involvement of the season.

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