CORK manager John Cleary gave an honest assessment of where his county is following Saturday night’s 11-point All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Dublin.
The end of a long and frustrating campaign saw Cork bow out of the 2022 All-Ireland SFC at the hands of a more experienced and clinical Dublin at Croke Park.
Interim Cork manager John Cleary admitted failing to score in the third quarter, wasteful shooting and an improved Dublin second-half performance contributed to his team’s eventual loss.
“I felt in the first half that we missed four or five scores, another day we could have got them, and we needed something to cling on to at half-time,” Cleary commented.
“We just couldn’t get to grips with Dublin in the third quarter. They pushed on and pushed up on our kick-outs. Ultimately, that was the complete winning and losing of the game. Couldn’t make the ball stick in the third quarter. Dublin powered on and we had no answer to them.”
Cleary has had a lot to contend with in 2022. Manager Keith Ricken stepping back, integrating a slew of raw talent, Cork barely surviving relegation to Division 3 and a litany of injuries that would have decimated any senior inter-county panel.
“Some of our performance was ok but any time you get beaten by 11 points it is disappointing,” the interim Cork manager added.
“At least people can see that out there today. Particularly all the lads in the dressing room and the backroom team. That’s the standard you have to try and get to. How long that takes and whether you can get there or not is another matter.
“When Dublin pushed on, their fitness and conditioning, we just didn’t have the answers. I thought our lads were fierce gallant. They left everything out on the pitch. We couldn’t ask anything more from them. Ultimately, Dublin were the better team and the score-line doesn’t lie. We were well beaten.”
When pushed on the question of Cork’s conditioning, Cleary gave another honest assessment of where his county stands amongst the country’s top teams.
“I don’t know, it is obviously something in the strength and conditioning and fitness, in that we can go so far with teams,” Cleary added.
“That’s the way with the top teams. They seem to have that extra gear that really matters. At times, we thought Dublin had 16 or 17 players the way they were coming at us from all different angles. Our lads were out on their feet completely.
“Obviously, it is a fitness thing. I think that takes a good number of years. There were times this year that we pushed on harder in training and some lads broke down injured. It is something you don’t just build up overnight. It takes a good number of years. You could see all the six-in-a-row Dublin winning players and they were in fantastic condition out there.
“There are an awful lot of learnings for the guys inside in the Cork dressing room. If they want to and can bring it forward, hopefully, they will be in a better position to do something better in the coming years.”