Linda Mellerick previews Cork v Clare: Jury still out on Rebels' attacking style

Opening up space on the wings is popular in the modern game but it can take a team's most dangerous forwards too far away from the goal
Linda Mellerick previews Cork v Clare: Jury still out on Rebels' attacking style

Cork's Amy O'Connor wins the ball from Waterford's Keeley Corbett-Barry at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SATURDAY: Dimplex All-Ireland Championship: Cork v Clare, Páirc Uí Rinn, 6pm.

FOR the second time in two weeks Cork and Clare face off in championship action.

This time it’s in the second round of the All-Ireland senior championship group series.

If the Munster final is an indicator of what’s to come, then Páirc Ui Rinn is the place to be tomorrow evening.

In the intervening week Cork accounted for Wexford and Clare drew with Tipperary in their respective opening rounds.

I’m not so sure if Cork are getting the best out of the format they’ve chosen to play.

Typically, they vertically line up where you have a full-forward, a player in front of them and then maybe two players out around the ‘D’ more or less standing side by side leaving the flanks completely clear.

Funnily enough, Wexford took a similar approach and it was strange to watch a completely congested area between both 45s and two vertical lines running off that, with oceans of space on the inside wings.

Teams are obsessed with creating space. But at this stage, it’s so flagged that it’s not giving the expected, or acceptable, return.

What happened to just trying to get that yard on your marker? That’s creating space. That telepathic understanding between players that gives your team-mate that 60/40 advantage, even 55/45 will do it if the player is up to it.

Aaron Gillane did it to goal twice against Tipperary. 

Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates a goal against Tipp. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates a goal against Tipp. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Alan Connolly did it last weekend, with just that yard of space, and Galway’s Carrie Dolan did it against Cork in their recent league final victory over the Rebels.

All three players just needed a yard and they made it work. Go back to the days when you won your patch.

SPEED

Defenders are as fast as forwards. The sprint out the wing gives both players an opportunity to gain ground if they’ve been slow off the mark.

As a forward, you’ve still a lot to do so far out from goal. Cork have speedy forwards, but I don’t feel we’re capitalising on that. Their speed should be utilised to get that yard ahead, not a dash to the wings.

Cork's Emma Murphy taking on Wexford's Louise O'Leary. Picture: Patrick Browne
Cork's Emma Murphy taking on Wexford's Louise O'Leary. Picture: Patrick Browne

It’s not all about speed either. Dolan got just that fraction of a step-in front of Libby Coppinger in the final and pushed past her to goal.

I’d suggest that we should be getting the ball in first-time nearer to the goal and not out the wings; there’s just too much for players still to do.

I remember Eddie Brennan once saying that he never wanted a ball struck to him out the wing, he wanted it as near to goal as possible. Why he asked, would you want it as far from the goal as possible?

Cork’s two wing-backs, Laura Hayes and Saoirse McCarthy, are very impressive coming forward and a big plus for Cork, no doubt about that. Does that however lend to midfield being bypassed?

Ashling Thompson is too good a player to be bypassed. She tends to drift out of games for long periods.

I’m not saying Cork’s current style is the reason for that, but it isn’t helping. Why not put Thompson up near goal?

Imagine giving her a ball inside. Would that also give Cork the option of hitting a few high balls in?

She’d brush her marker aside, that’s without question; Hannah Looney the same. I think we need to change things up a bit, it’s too predictable and it’s markable.

There’s something in the water in Clare. No one gave them a serious thought last February in hurling or camogie.

Both teams are playing out of their skins. Their big performances have been backed up with even bigger performances.

Cork will be without full-back Coppinger as she lines out with the footballers in the Munster final against Kerry.

Meabh Cahalane will play against Clare. Without being disrespectful to Clare, but in the past Cork would have been looking to give their extended panel a run for this game.

Not anymore. Cork will be putting out the best they have available for this one.

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