Cork need ball winners on the pitch if they are to make progress

AS long ago as 13 July 2021 we stated in these pages that Cork had a worrying tendency to replace all of their principle ball winners at vital stages in the second half of big championship matches. 
Cork need ball winners on the pitch if they are to make progress

Austin Stacks vs St. Finbarrs

AS long ago as 13 July 2021 we stated in these pages that Cork had a worrying tendency to replace all of their principle ball winners at vital stages in the second half of big championship matches. 

We presented plenty of evidence from previous years to support this trend.

The 2019 championship defeats to Clare and Kilkenny were old examples, but the same happened in the 2020 championship defeat to Tipperary, and we were able to use up to date instances, as in the 2021 Munster semi-final defeat to Limerick Cork had withdrawn Conor Cahalane, Seamus Harnedy and Robbie O’Flynn for Shane Barrett, Luke Meade and Alan Cadogan. 

Needless to say, not much ball stuck in the Cork forward line after those amendments.

Unfortunately, this trend continued into 2022 and was most definitely a contributor in terms of Cork’s exit to Galway on 18 June. 

Alan Cadogan, Tim O’Mahony and Seamus Harnedy were withdrawn in the 47th, 58th and 67th minutes, being replaced by Jack O’Connor, Alan Cadogan and Tommy O’Connell.

The Cadogan substitution worked a treat, with the Douglas attacker slicing over three points in his time on the pitch, as he tried in vain to rescue Cork’s season, while O’Connor and O’Connell certainly can play, and are likely to be key members of the Cork panel moving forward, but none of them would be considered as out and out ball winners.

Cork needed goals late on, yet they removed their main goal scoring threats from the fray. 

Cian Twomey, Newcestown, Declan Dalton, Fr. O'Neills
Cian Twomey, Newcestown, Declan Dalton, Fr. O'Neills

This was illustrated perfectly when two pointed efforts from Patrick Horgan and Cadogan came off the post and landed invitingly in the Galway square, yet no Cork sniper was about to do their best Seanie O’Leary impression.

Indeed, the game ended in frustratingly predictable fashion when goalkeeper Patrick Collins had one last puckout to instigate an equaliser. 

He looked up and had no one to hit. To rub salt into the wound the option to move Robert Downey up as a target to hit wasn’t even available as he had been replaced by Ger Millerick in the 51st minute. 

Collins ended up landing the ball down on top of O’Connor. The Sars speedster was certainly not introduced for his aerial prowess. 

Jack Grealish fetched the ball above his head and it was curtains for the Cork challenge.

Sometimes players have to be replaced. Regardless of reputation it just might not be your day and something else may need to be tried. 

That is the reality of hurling. And in fairness to the Cork management no Cork forward was immune to the crooked finger this year. 

The point here, though, revolves around the panel options and who is sitting on the bench.

As recently as 31 May 2022 we also stated in these pages that the Cork management needed to rethink the make up of their bench, as it was clear that we were heading towards a scenario where both Tim O’Mahony and Alan Connolly were going to start in the same attack, as Cork had just dismantled Tipperary with a more direct approach and the duo had been integral to that win and the one over Waterford. 

The one downside of this development was that there was no like for likes on the Cork bench for the inevitable moment when either or both were going to be replaced. 

Roll on to the quarter-final defeat to Galway and that is exactly what transpired.

Cork were crying out for the likes of Blarney’s Padraig Power or Fr O’Neill’s Declan Dalton close to goal, with goals in mind, and they certainly could have done with some fresh legs around the 40 who could get their hand on the sliotar as well.

It feels a bit like Groundhog Day to suggest that Cork carry too many similar types on the panel. 

Cork vs Clare
Cork vs Clare

The eyes of management clearly get drawn to the shiny, speedy, skillful hurlers, and the rawer, usually bigger, specimen gets passed over.

You have to wonder what Liam Cahill, Brian Lohan and Brian Cody would do with the likes of Sean Twomey, Mark Keane and Colin O’Brien. 

I expect they would persist with one or two of them in the knowledge that if they got up to speed at the highest level they would be a considerable resource to call upon. 

And add St Finbarr’s Brian Hayes to that list. 

After watching the 2020 and 2021 All-Ireland U20 wins he seemed the one forward that could really bolster this senior side, given his physical attributes. 

Was he even asked onto the panel?

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