Analysis: Direct route didn't work for Cork hurlers with Galway sweeping

After a first quarter where Tim O'Mahony and Alan Connolly looked very dangerous, long ball inside didn't pay off in All-Ireland quarter-final loss
Analysis: Direct route didn't work for Cork hurlers with Galway sweeping

Galway’s Daithí Burke and Darren Morrissey with Tim O’Mahony of Cork under the high ball. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

GALWAY may have won this All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium but it felt more like a tie that Cork lost than Galway won as this was certainly a game that Kieran Kingston’s side left behind them.

The concession of the sloppiest of goals after just 20 seconds was a terrible way to start the game from a Cork perspective. Patrick Collins will need no one to tell him what a poor mistake he made in letting Jack Grealish’s long delivery go straight to the back of his net, to give Henry Shefflin’s side the perfect start. It was a start that they were never to recover from, as they never got on level terms despite the fact that Galway never truly impressed.

Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins reacts after dropping the ball into his own net. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins reacts after dropping the ball into his own net. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Shane Kingston took over five minutes to register Cork’s first score and Cork’s jittery opening was compounded by five poor wides in the opening 10.

Cork had two goal-scoring opportunities in those opening 10 minutes, as well, but Alan Connolly and Robbie O’Flynn drove their efforts too close to Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy, and he parried them away.

Another goalkeeper error in the 18th minute allowed Conor Whelan to somehow find the net from the acutest of angles and matters were not helped by the fact that Conor Lehane had three wides registered from placed balls by the 22nd minute as the Rebel machine continued to malfunction.

Cork struck through a huge point from O’Flynn in the 27th minute, but Galway responded with three points in three minutes to keep Cork at arm’s length. Conor Whelan was on fire and whenever Galway could feed their talisman it invariably resulted in a Galway score.

Three times in the first half Cork players were blown for either overcarrying or throwing the ball which was an illustration that they were not quite tuned in for the opening 35 minutes.

Galway won the tactical battle hands down as they had employed a sweeper in front of Alan Connolly and Tim O’Mahony and almost every long ball that Cork hit into them was effectively a turnover. The direct ball that a lot of Cork fans had called for just wasn’t working.

Shane Kingston pointed a free with the last puck of the first half to leave Cork trailing 2-6 to 0-7 at the break. Possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of this scoreline was that Galway had actually been extremely average yet were winning by almost double scores at half-time.

Conor Lehane of Cork is tackled by Jack Grealish of Galway. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Conor Lehane of Cork is tackled by Jack Grealish of Galway. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cork’s 12 wides in the first half certainly did not help matters. And it wasn’t like Cork were shooting from ridiculous angles either, as a lot of the misses were very poor. It was as if the first-minute goal had rattled the nerves and they never really recovered in that half.

The one shining light in that first half was the display of Ciarán Joyce at centre-back as he drove Cork on, even if the poor shooting undermined this effort.

Kingston scored a beauty of a goal in the 38th minute to spark some life into the Cork challenge, but Galway struck back with three points in three minutes to cancel out the effort.

While the Cork effort in the second half improved, Galway always seemed to respond to a big Cork score with one of their own. This trend continued in the 53rd minute when substitute Patrick Horgan banged over two points in less than a minute, and Robbie O’Flynn sliced one over just 30 seconds later for three points in just 90 seconds.

Cork had all the momentum at this juncture and Jack O’Connor then had a chance to equalise, only for his effort to be blocked down, and Galway went straight down and scored three in a row of their own to reassert their four-point lead, in what was an extremely costly few minutes for Cork.

Daithí Burke hit Seamus Harnedy with a huge match-winning shoulder in the 62nd minute to deny him a direct run on goal. Alan Cadogan made a huge contribution scoring three important scores upon his introduction but when his pointed effort came back off the right upright straight into a Galway hand in the 69th minute you just knew it wasn’t going to be Cork’s day.

Cork got back to within a point again at the death, but the fact that Collins launched that last puck-out on top of Cork’s smallest forward Jack O’Connor when the ball had to be won spoke volumes, as another year ends in disappointing fashion.

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