Cork v Dublin: Rebel forwards have class but Dubs' attack remains lethal

The bookies have set the hosts as 1/50 to progress to an All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry or Mayo
Cork v Dublin: Rebel forwards have class but Dubs' attack remains lethal

Cork's Brian Hurley and Limerick's Gordon Brown battling at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

AFTER getting two favourable draws in the qualifiers there is nowhere left to hide for the Cork footballers this Saturday evening as they face the juggernaut that is Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park.

In theory, it is a clash of two teams that will be plying their trade in Division 2 next year but the reality is quite different. The bookies have set a 12-point handicap for this one, as Dublin are unbackable 1/50 favourites. A Cork victory would be viewed as one of the biggest shocks in championship history.

Cork’s injury issues in recent seasons have been well documented at this stage. If Cork had every player available then there would be greater confidence in putting it up to the likes of Dublin but they’re a few years away from that level at present.

The first thing that Cork must do is to significantly curtail the Dublin attacking machine. Dublin put up huge totals in their victorious Leinster Championship campaign.

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Dessie Farrell at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

They scored 1-24 against Wexford, 1-27 versus Meath and then in the Leinster final, they registered 5-17 against what looked to be a very competitive Kildare outfit in the build-up to the game.

And while Cork are heavily reliant on the attacking trio of Steven Sherlock, Cathail O’Mahony and Brian Hurley the reality is that Dublin have a number of ways of hurting you.

Against Wexford Con O’Callaghan bagged 1-6 while Brian Fenton knocked over 0-5 from midfield. In the Leinster semi-final against Meath Dean Rock scored a huge 1-8, Ciaran Kilkenny kicked 0-5 and Cormac Costello 0-3, while in the final against Kildare they had nine different scorers, with Con O’Callaghan (1-5) and Cormac Costello (2-1) top scoring.

Dublin’s average of just under 30 points in their three Leinster ties is significantly better than Cork’s average of just over 17 points from their three championship games, although it must be noted that Cork’s scoring rate has been increasing game on game, from 0-11 versus Kerry, to 2-12 against Louth and then 2-18 the last day against Limerick.

Kerry managed to outscore Cork by a margin of 0-11 to 0-1 in the last 20 minutes of their Munster Championship clash in early May, as they pushed a two-point lead out to a 12-point victory with this late period of dominance.

This brought to mind the last time Cork faced Dublin in the championship in the Super Eight stage of the 2019 championship which Jim Gavin’s side eventually won by 5-18 to 1-17, a 13-point margin when Cork had only trailed by three points at the hour mark.

That game was only three years ago, yet from the team that started only Mattie Taylor, Ian Maguire and Brian Hurley started against Limerick in the last qualifier a fortnight ago. 

Steven Sherlock, Cian Kiely and John O’Rourke did come off the bench but that is a huge turnover of players in a few short years.

Whether due to the emergence of youth, player retirement, players being dropped or due to injuries, the changes serve as a clear illustration of how unsettled the panel has been and to how difficult it has been to build a team in recent times.

Failing to match the top three or four teams for fitness manifests in these late fade-outs. Of course, it does not help that a lot of Cork’s players have had significant injury issues, undermining any S&C programs.

Probably the main reason Cork fell away against Kerry was that their kick-out collapsed in those last 20 minutes. We can expect Dublin to push right up on Cork here.

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