Cork v Clare: Rebels must get on the goal trail again in Thurles this Sunday

'Cork scored one goal against Wexford, Galway and Waterford in their last three matches, and it is worth noting that Cork lost three of those four matches. More goals are required.'
Cork v Clare: Rebels must get on the goal trail again in Thurles this Sunday

Shane Kingston celebrates scoring his goal against Clare in 2021. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

CORK face Clare on Sunday in Semple Stadium in a Munster Championship clash that already has a season-defining air to it.

Losing their opening game against Limerick was no great surprise, they look a good bet to complete an historic three-in-a-row, but the manner of the defeat hurt.

The fact that Cork fell into the same traps as last August in the All-Ireland final was extremely frustrating.  No lessons appeared to have been learned in the interim. 

If Cork were unable, or unwilling, to make any amendments to the way they play in the interim eight months can we really expect them to change in a fortnight?

The one positive for Cork this weekend is that they are not facing Limerick or Waterford. 

That is not to suggest they will have it easy against Clare. They needed a last-ditch Patrick Collins save from a Tony Kelly rocket to see off the Bannermen last year. 

Tony Kelly of Clare takes a shot on goal in injury-time against Cork that was saved by Patrick Collins. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Tony Kelly of Clare takes a shot on goal in injury-time against Cork that was saved by Patrick Collins. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Considering the recent beatings dished out by the two top-rated sides in the country, it's better than facing John Kiely or Liam Cahill’s side right now.

We can expect a few changes in personnel, in defence and in attack, but the likelihood is Cork’s tactical approach will be similar. No matter what the Cork fans are hoping.

The likelihood is that we will see Mark Coleman at six again and that there will again be a clear emphasis on working the ball through the lines, in slow, deliberate fashion. 

And this may well work against Clare. 

They do have a strong, physical middle eight, but they would appear to be a level below the likes of Diarmaid Byrnes, William O’Donoghue and Gearoid Hegarty and co. Cork will be hopeful of being able to negotiate the Clare midfield minefield more successfully than they were able to against Limerick, where they ended up conceding a huge tally of 2-16 from turnovers conceded by running into a green brick wall.

GOAL THREAT

Cork’s lack of goals this season has been concerning though. Just the one was managed against Limerick, and that after just 17 seconds when Shane Kingston rifled past Nicky Quaid. 

That goal maintained Cork’s recent goal-scoring average of a goal per game in their last four matches. Cork scored one goal against Wexford, Galway and Waterford in their last three matches, and it is worth noting that Cork lost three of those four matches. More goals are required.

Cork needed three goals to see off Clare last year, with Shane Barrett, Shane Kingston and Jack O’Connor raising those green flags, and Cork managed two goals in the league encounter against Clare in February. They could need goals this Sunday.

While we cannot be sure how Cork set up for this crunch tie the one thing we can safely assume is that particular plans will be in place to curtail the influence of Tony Kelly on proceedings. 

Clare remain heavily reliant on the Ballyea man. He scored 1-11 of Clare’s 1-23 total in last July’s 3-19 to 1-23 Cork victory at the Gaelic Grounds. The logical thing to do would be to tell Ger Millerick to follow him everywhere in Semple Stadium and restrict him as much as possible.

You would expect that if you limited Kelly’s contribution that Clare’s attack would be significantly nullified, although Ryan Taylor, David Fitzgerald, Shane Meehan, Cathal Malone and the returning duo of Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell might have something to say about that.

Rory Hayes of Clare is tackled by Cork players Tim O'Mahony and Séamus Harnedy last summer. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Rory Hayes of Clare is tackled by Cork players Tim O'Mahony and Séamus Harnedy last summer. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cork’s defensive spine has been completely dismantled in the last two games against Limerick and Waterford, so there will be serious pressure on the Cork defenders to become more miserly from now on. 

They simply cannot keep shipping soft goals like they have in the last two outings, and expect to qualify as one of the top three sides in Munster.

When the championship draw was made, this game looked on paper to be the most winnable of all Cork’s round-robin Munster ties. 

After the heavy defeat to Limerick, the confidence levels are not very high, but if Cork are to feature in the All-Ireland series later in the summer then you feel this is very much a must-win tie, regardless of how Cork approach it tactically.

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