Did Cork's fear of a Croke Park hiding prevent them from troubling Dublin more?

Rebels pushed the favourites hard in the first half in the All-Ireland quarter-final but should have put more scores on the board
Did Cork's fear of a Croke Park hiding prevent them from troubling Dublin more?

Dublin's Brian Howard with Blake Murphy of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

THE stats before this All-Ireland quarter-final tie in Croke Park told us Dublin averaged over 29 points per game in their three games so far this season against Wexford, Meath and Kildare.

Cork, in their three games, averaged just over 17 points per match against Kerry, Louth and Limerick. That was a 12-point deficit that would have to be made up by the Cork team if they were to have any chance of beating the Dubs.

Based on their previous scoring this year, Cork were never going to be able to do that.

The Dublin footballers were bidding to reach the semi-final for a 13th successive season, having last failed to get there in 2009 when they lost a quarter-final to Kerry.

Cork were last in the semi-finals in 2012. 

Those expecting a Cork win were in a very small minority. Confidence was not in abundance listening to those incredibly loyal Cork supporters on Jones Road before the game.

This was the 17th championship clash between the counties. Dublin had won 13 to Cork’s two while there was one was drawn game from the previous 16 ties. Cork’s wins were in the 1989 and the 2010 semi-final, so you could see why the odds on a Cork win were huge.

Yet, on Saturday Dublin kicked 21 points, nine below their average, Cork just 10, three in the second half.

Cork manager John Cleary speaks to his players. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Cork manager John Cleary speaks to his players. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

With Dublin off-colour in terms of their attacking and scoring, Cork just didn’t have the scoring power, the attacking prowess, the know-how or big-game experience up front to trouble the Dublin defence and make a game of it when it mattered in the second half.

In the end, this was an easy win for Dessie Farrell’s side. I’m sure they would have had harder in-house games.

There was no intensity in Cork’s play. No aggression, no do-or-die attitude and as a result, Dublin without ever coming out of second gear won at their ease. There was nothing for the Cork fans in the 50,874 to get excited about.

The only time the Cork fans raised a cheer came in the 48th minute when Rebel Legend Roy Keane appeared on the big screen.

Yet, at half time as the teams headed down the tunnel, Cork trailed by three, 0-7 to 0-10 and had done more than enough to have people thinking.

Was this the correct scoreline? Should Cork have been ahead? They had as much possession as the Dubs. They had created more scoring chances.

Cork created 16 chances, but only scored from seven of those. Dublin had created 17 as well but converted 10 of those.

Cork’s inside forward line of Hurley, Sherlock and O’Mahony were creating all sorts of trouble for the Dublin full-back line. Dublin were not playing well.


This game was there for the winning if Cork believed they could do it. It would take a change of mindset though to win.

In the first half with Sean Powter playing the sweeper role Cork never looked like giving up a goal chance and they didn’t. Now, with 35 minutes to play could we see a different Cork?

I had several questions.

Would their fitness last on the vast pitch of Croke Park? Should they move Powter into the forward line where he is a better player? Can they stay in the game until the final quarter?

Then could they match Dublin – remember Cork were outscored 0-12 to 0-1 by Kerry from the 51st minute in Cork in the Munster Championship.

Or will we see a Dublin side fired up from the hard words of their manager Dessie Farrell at the break and blow Cork away in the opening minutes of the second period?

We didn’t and yet Dublin won by 11 points. They did so by doing the simple things right. They defended in numbers and crowded out the Cork players who could not cope with that tight defending.

And when they did, their accuracy was poor. Three second-half points, 13 wides over the 70 minutes...

For Cork, I’m not sure they know what they are at this stage in their development under Keith Ricken-John Cleary.

The All-Ireland U20 winners are gaining in senior experience, but they are not there yet. They are clearly a work in progress.

Next year’s National League campaign will be a big one for those players. They need to adapt quicker, play more aggressively and make a serious assault on winning promotion from Division 2.

Defensively, Cork are further down the road than they are as an attacking force. But they need to find some defenders and midfielders who can contribute some scores. All the best modern teams are getting production from there.

Cork do not. They need to fix this.

Until they do, Cork will never win the big games.

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