'It wasn't very pleasant for Cork, yet I think it will stand to them in the long run'

Louth manager Mickey Harte believes John Cleary's side will benefit from his ultra-cautious tactics
'It wasn't very pleasant for Cork, yet I think it will stand to them in the long run'

Louth manager Mickey Harte and John Cleary at the end of the game. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

JUST before the hour at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last weekend Cork fans in the South Stand finally ran out of patience.

At the time Cork led by 0-10 to 1-5 with Louth persisting in withdrawing all 14 outfield players behind the ball.

There were ironic cheers every time Cork passed it, not directed at their own, but venting their frustration at Louth’s ultra-defensive tactics.

It didn’t last long, but it signalled their displeasure at having to fork out €25 to watch such negativity.

Could Cork have done anything different to entice Louth further up field?

They could, for example, have retreated to their own goal with the football and passed it around themselves, waving at their opponents to come take it off them.

And if the visitors were still unwilling to cross the half-way line, Cork could have just knocked the ball out of play at the corner-flag and concede a ’45.

This would have meant some journey for the kicker in the first instance and also require colleagues to join him up front while eating into the time, as well.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine these two things happening and yet the way football has become you couldn’t rule it out. Some team will do it.

Louth’s approach started from the throw-in, which Cork won and immediately all the forwards sprinted back behind their 45m line.

And it was only after Brian Hurley’s goal, five minutes from the end of regulation time to make it 1-11 to 1-5, that Louth changed.

“There was a stage we had to go for broke and that left us vulnerable at the back,” said manager Mickey Harte later.

“Cork’s second goal (Colm O’Callaghan) was critical because we felt we should have got a free after trapping one of their players and holding onto the ball too long.

“That was a critical decision in Cork’s favour in a tight game.” 

The former All-Ireland winning manager with Tyrone made no apologies for his tactics.

“There are different strokes for different folks. You got to play to the conditions, to the players are your disposal and we don’t even have all of our players at the minute because there are six or seven unavailable.

“Yes, you have to cut your cloth to suit and there are people who criticise certain styles of play.

“And yet I ask the question-would you rather go to a game that was over at half-time or go to one where there was a lot of intrigue with how you might be able to break down a defence or score against a lot of numbers behind the ball?

“I don’t like watching a game that is over at say 2-12 to 0-4 at half-time. That doesn’t entertain me at all. It doesn’t entertain anybody.

“It gives you the longest second-half you could ever dream of, but if we go and play like this and people don’t like it maybe they need to open their minds a wee bit.

“Look at the different ways of playing the game.

“I thought we surprised Cork in the way we set-up and they don’t have to deal with that very often and probably won’t want do it much in the future either.

“We needed to do to stay in the game because if we went toe-to-toe with Cork it would have been very difficult to hold them because they have some very good footballers.

“We conceded 2-22 against Kildare and didn’t want a repeat. That game was over at half-time and that had to change. It wasn’t very pleasant for Cork and yet I think it will stand to them in the long run.” 

Brian Hurley celebrates scoring a goal. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Brian Hurley celebrates scoring a goal. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

His Cork counterpart, John Cleary, had a different mindset.

“I think you should go toe-to-toe but obviously with some tactics, too,” he said. “We play a different way in Munster and we’re not used to blanket defences for such long periods.” 

He’ll get his chance against Limerick at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday at 1.30pm.



All-Ireland SFC R2: Roscommon v Clare, Croke Park, 3.45pm; Mayo v Kildare, Croke Park, 6pm.

All-Ireland MFC quarter-finals: Tyrone v Kerry, Portlaoise, 4pm; Cork v Derry, Portlaoise, 6pm.


All-Ireland SFC R2: Cork v Limerick, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1.30pm; Armagh v Donegal, Clones, 4pm.

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