Cork hurling analysis: Shane Kingston would be a bigger threat off the bench

'Kingston and Patrick Horgan don't win enough ball to justify starting both of them against Clare'
Cork hurling analysis: Shane Kingston would be a bigger threat off the bench

Cork’s Shane Kingston celebrates scoring a goal with Patrick Horgan in the opening minute against Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

OPENING your Munster Championship campaign against the reigning All-Ireland champions was always going to be a tough task, but the manner in which Cork lost at home to Limerick yesterday will have left Cork fans feeling extremely frustrated.

The defeat felt like déjà vu all over again, as, just like in last year’s All-Ireland final in Croke Park, Cork simply had no answer to the slick Limerick machine.

Four points down at half-time, despite having the advantage of the wind in that opening half, Cork did briefly rally at half- time to level the game, but John Kiely’s side struck over the next five points to regain control and they never looked like relinquishing it thereafter.

The Cork management clearly have a lot of faith in how they want this team to play but even they must now be coming around to thinking that the approach is not working.

After last year’s 16-point defeat to Limerick in the All-Ireland final, the main two items that required addressing from a Cork perspective were to sort out the spine of the defence and to introduce more ball-winning options up front. Not only were these two ‘actions’ not addressed, they were not even attempted to be sorted, as Cork went into the 2022 championship with effectively the same approach and set-up that was found wanting in 2021.

The standout stat to emerge from the match was the fact that Limerick mined 2-16 of their 2-25 total from turnovers. If that does not tell Cork what the problem is then nothing will.

Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins drives a puck-out at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins drives a puck-out at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

With no long ball option, Cork feel obliged to go through the minefield that is the Limerick middle eight, which is exactly what John Kiely’s side want them to do. Limerick’s second goal was the perfect illustration of this.

Tim O’Mahony had the ball in loads of space, but when he looked up he had no options towards the Blackrock End, so he felt obligated to turn back and he duly popped it to Sean O’Donoghue, who also had no outlet available, and when the ball wasn’t released it got turned over and Limerick were allowed walk in the simplest of goals in what was the quintessential example of hari-kari hurling.

In some ways, stats don’t matter when you keep conceding soft goals of that nature, but they do help to tell the tale of the game too.

That lack of a ball-winning option up front also told in the puckout stakes, as 2-8 of Limerick’s total came from long puck-outs. To compare, Cork only got three points from Collins’ long deliveries.

Cork had plenty of options they could have tried more in the league in this respect but the likes of Sean Twomey, Colin O’Brien, and Mark Keane were never fully backed. Therefore, it can be no great surprise that Cork’s puckout woes have continued into the 2022 championship given that no real effort was made to rectify it.

Not starting Robert Downey in defence has to go down as another major black mark against the Cork management. In a game where size, physicality and defensive nous was always going to be at a premium Downey had to be a major part of Cork’s rearguard. It was telling that in the second half Kyle Hayes had the opportunity to recreate his first-half goal, only from the right flank, but Downey ran him down, dispossessed him and cleared. In the first half, in almost mirror image circumstances Damien Cahalane and Mark Coleman let Hayes through for a simple finish.

Serious question marks hung over the Cork defence after the league final loss to Waterford two weeks ago yet Cork management decided to stick. There will be serious pressure on to make changes for Round 2.

Shane Kingston scored a brilliant goal in the first minute but did little afterwards. This sequence of the Douglas attacker starting a game, playing poorly, and then coming off the bench in the next game, really impacting the play and then being rewarded with a start the next day has to stop.

His best role for Cork is clearly as an impact sub. He does not win enough ball to justify starting, which is a particular problem given that Patrick Horgan does not win a lot of ball either.

There is no way you can justify starting both of them in the same line given this deficiency in both their games.

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