Cork footballers opt for stability and consistency with team selections

John Cleary and his management team have only made changes to the starting 15 where necessary this spring
Cork footballers opt for stability and consistency with team selections

Cork’s Mattie Taylor with Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

CORK footballers have taken to Saturday lunchtime to releasing their team for the weekend’s Division 2 action.

It will be flashed up on the county board website at 1pm for all to observe, comment, criticise or praise depending on those handed jerseys one to 15, those from 16 to 26 or those not getting a geansai at all.

You wonder why they leave it so late though in fairness Cork are a lot more open than say Dublin, who could name their starting 15 five minutes before throw-in and still change it while the ball is in the air. Paranoia still runs deep in some areas.

Cork would probably point to late fitness tests to players before determining their group of players for any particular game as the reason and it’s perfectly understandable given the challenges posed by players lining out for their colleges in the Sigerson Cup running at the same time as the inter-county action.

Yet, such is the familiar look to the starting 15 that you’d think selection discussions would be brief enough and not requiring midnight oil before wrapping things up.

The theme from the opening McGrath Cup tie against Kerry and continuing up to last weekend’s thrashing of Limerick has been stability as reflected in the dozen starters in both games and obviously the need to knit the team as quickly as possible given the congested nature of the season.

It’s a logical approach and while Cork used up to something like 30 players in the pre-season competition the nucleus of the team remained the same apart from injuries and the odd selection alteration with changes accruing during the courses of matches.

It’s a different way of conducting affairs compared to other counties and sure isn’t that the way of life altogether with others trying out players in an experimental mode during the league for various reasons?

Take new Mayo boss Kevin McStay, for example. He inherited a changing group of players and had to go about seeing potential candidates in the high-octane word of Division 1 after initial auditions during the FBD League in Connacht.

Meath manager Colm O’Rourke took the same approach while Dessie Farrell also dabbled with his squad to try un-earth new Dubs for the twin job of returning to Division 1 immediately and keeping an eye on the championship, looming large on the horizon.


Their Cork counterpart John Cleary and his management team absorbed the lessons of last season’s injury-plagued and fraught league campaign with survival coming down to the last minutes of the concluding game away to Offaly.

Cork survived by the skin of their teeth and obviously, nobody wanted to endure another season like that, hence the importance of hitting the ground early and having everyone up to match speed. And it’s worked.

One of those many regulars is left half-back Mattie Taylor, who has emerged as one of the most consistent players in the red shirt, rarely dropping below eight in the ratings as the Americans are wont to portray in all matters sporting.

The Mallow dynamo has been exciting to watch, comfortable in soloing left-footed down the flank with more than sufficient skill, composure and confidence, so much so that Taylor’s excursions have created ripples of fear among opponents.

Opposing defenders are torn between moving out of their comfort zones and leaving their man unmarked or staying put and seeing what happens, blaming those further out the field for any collateral damage.

Dublin found out to their cost in the recent game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when Taylor ran on to a well-timed pass from Ruairi Deane before waltzing through the defence to score a cracking goal to the far corner of the net.

It was typical of the way the experienced wing-back has been playing this term and his inclusion in the team, expected to show a couple of enforced changes, is automatic.

Injuries are set to keep Tommy Wash and Brian O’Driscoll sidelined with Sean Meehan and either Deane or John O’Rourke getting the nod.

Cork boast the joint highest scorers across all four divisions, netting 10-61 to-date for a total of 91, the same as Division 4 pacesetters Leitrim, who have conceded a point more than the Rebels.

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