Tony Considine: Cork on red alert for Galway after sloppy show in Antrim

Without Conor Lehane and Robbie O'Flynn, the Rebels could have been knocked out at Corrigan Park, they'll need to be far sharper in Thurles on Saturday
Tony Considine: Cork on red alert for Galway after sloppy show in Antrim

Cork's Darragh Fitzgibbon celebrates his goal in Belfast to set up the quarter-final clash with Galway this Saturday. Picture: INPHO/John McVitty

I WOULD have liked to be the fly on the wall in the Cork dressing room at halftime on Saturday. 

Imagine all the thoughts that were going through Kieran Kingston's mind. Only a few of his players playing well and more importantly, only a few of them showing the real intensity needed for championship. 

Was he thinking could this go terribly wrong? What shame there would be to go back to Cork having lost to a team that were seen as no-hopers. Remember, he was at the mercy of all his players in that dressing room. Players that were not functioning or playing the way he wanted them to.

Sometimes a lot of things are out of your control as a manager. You can shout and roar or be as calm as you like, but there is nothing much you can do when the overall team aren't performing to the standard you required. 

Not alone were Antrim up at half time, but they should have been a lot more up because they had some very bad wides from play and frees in that first half.

Cork have a few players to thank, though not too many, who kept them in the game. I know they were playing against a strong breeze but really that should not make a difference when you are the unbackable favourites. You have to lay down a marker early against the underdog. You have to be completely ruthless and try to put the game to bed. 

Cork's Alan Connolly battles Antrim's Ryan Elliott last weekend. Picture: INPHO/John McVitty
Cork's Alan Connolly battles Antrim's Ryan Elliott last weekend. Picture: INPHO/John McVitty

Cork did not have enough players with that mentality on Saturday. Antrim seemed to get some easy scores, got through for a handy goal when James McNaughton raced right past the Cork defence without a tackle being put on him.

There are a couple of players Cork can really thank for keeping them in this game. 

Robbie O'Flynn had one of his best games that I have seen him play for Cork. He got some great scores and his work-rate was very high, great pace and power in his play. He was taking the game to the Antrim boys, he was showing good leadership, the kind I have not seen before from him in a Cork jersey. 

The man that really made them tick though was Conor Lehane. He was tremendous, along with taking scores and making scores he continued the good form that he showed against Tipperary. 

Conor Lehane buries his penalty. Picture: INPHO/John McVitty
Conor Lehane buries his penalty. Picture: INPHO/John McVitty

That is the thing about Conor this year, he is a more consistent player and his work-rate seems very high, adding that to his great skill has been a big plus for Cork and they really needed it here. 

Darragh Fitzgibbon also worked very hard linking up play very well and also getting on the score sheet. 

They were the only three that Kieran Kingston could be happy with at halftime.

After half time Cork improved. Their tacking became crisper, their distribution of the ball was better, Ciarán Joyce, Mark Coleman and Sean O'Donoghue started dominating in the defence. 

Alan Connolly started showing more up front as did Tim O'Mahony. Also Seamus Harnedy, after a quiet first half, upped the gears.

The work-rate of the Cork players improved all over the field. I also believe that Antrim tired in that second half, and, you would expect that, after the tough final they had the week before.

Still, they were very gritty and McManus, Elliot, McNaughton, Campbell and Molloy kept fighting to the end. Manager Darren Gleeson can be very proud of the way his team has performed this year. 

Playing more games like this against opposition like this will only make Antrim better. Corrigan Park is no easy place to go to. A tight pitch and a very passionate home crowd. It's a long journey for Cork, but sometimes on long journeys, you can get time to do a lot of deep thinking. 

Cork manager Kieran Kingston watches on against Antrim at Corrigan Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cork manager Kieran Kingston watches on against Antrim at Corrigan Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

I'm sure Kieran Kingston as I am writing this is doing that. And he has a lot of thinking to do before they play Galway. He will be in no doubt that this performance would not be near good enough the next day. 

But isn't it better to be thinking about that and trying to solve it than to be out of the championship, as your thinking then would make no difference at all...

CHALLENGE

This week should be very interesting around the Cork training ground. Getting the body and more importantly the mind right for the battle that lies ahead. While the journey is short this week the challenge is greater, and a lot greater, but isn't that what makes it? 

I'm sure Kingston will be getting that message across very strongly.

Interesting team and the picking of it will be very important this week. That is for another day.

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