Christy O'Connor: Cork's form so far won't be good enough to beat Clare on the road

'Ennis will be rattling like a boiling tin as Clare dial up the heat to maximum levels'
Christy O'Connor: Cork's form so far won't be good enough to beat Clare on the road

SHARPSHOOTERS: Patrick Horgan and Shane Kingston must be at their best against Clare. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IN his Irish Examiner column after the Cork-Tipperary game, Anthony Daly wrote about meeting a Cork supporter in the premium level in Páirc Uí Chaoimh not long after the final whistle.

It was just loose chat, but the supporter said that the Cork-Tipp game was “three times a better match” than the previous weekend’s Clare-Limerick game.

The comments of one supporter are never an accurate gauge of anything, especially the mood inside the camp. Pat Ryan certainly wouldn’t let any public attitude seep in because Cork would be deluding themselves to think that the quality and intensity was three times above what Clare and Limerick produced.

Just as importantly, Ryan will know full well that what Cork have produced to date will not be good enough to beat Clare, and Limerick, in this championship.

The manager will still be keen to focus on the positives. Cork have been impressive. They are continuing to work hard. They look to be in good form, especially some of their key players. But their two home games are over and now have to go into the bear-pit of Ennis.

When Cork came to Cusack Park in late March, the whole mood and dynamic around the squad that day hinted at it being a dry run for Sunday. Cork were already through and had nothing to play for, but they made it look like they had.

The subs lined the tunnel at half-time to applaud the players back onto the pitch. Cork were desperate to maintain their winning run that they had been on since early January, which was reflected in Cork getting the last two scores to draw the match and maintain that unbeaten sequence.


Yet just five days later Cork trained hard on the Friday night ahead of the league semi-final against Kilkenny. Cork weren’t going to use that as an excuse for their subsequent defeat, but they were clearly more intent on laying down a marker in Ennis for a nothing league game than they were for a league semi-final.

Cork have got three points from their first two games since but Ryan and Cork will have learned a lot more from the Tipperary game than the Waterford match.

Cork are without Robbie O’Flynn now for six weeks, but it was a gamble to start O’Flynn against Tipp when he had missed so much time with a serious ankle injury.

Easing him in was not really an option in such a big game but expecting him to be up to full speed straight away was bound to put pressure on his body, which contributed to a pulled hamstring.

Eoin Downey is an excellent young player who is going to have a brilliant career with Cork, but it was also a risk starting him against Tipp when he was making his championship debut, having missed the Waterford game to suspension.

Tipperary's Gearoid O'Connor with Eoin Downey of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Tipperary's Gearoid O'Connor with Eoin Downey of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Ryan obviously started Downey to physically match him up on Gearóid O’Connor, with his brother Rob taking up Seamus Kennedy on the other wing. That facilitated Tommy O’Connell’s move to midfield as O’Connor would have had a significant height advantage on O’Connell under puck-outs.

Cork also clearly altered their defensive structure that enabled Ciarán Joyce to sit more and not be chasing Noel McGrath, who was always likely to drift out the field and cause damage, which he did.

With Ger Millerick playing as an auxiliary centre-back, with the two Downeys outside him, Joyce was able to drop back more in front of Damien Cahalane and Niall O’Leary. After opening up Clare for five goals (albeit two of which were extremely soft), Cork will have been happy that their defensive structure largely limited Tipp’s goal threat.

The Clare attack though, are a different challenge again. Outside of Aidan McCarthy, and Mark Rodgers in the first half, the Clare attack didn’t fire against Tipp, but they still scored 3-23.

The two games since has shown how fluid, versatile and dangerous the Clare attack is. Moreover, it is loaded with big men that will ask Cork different questions around match-ups, especially off the bench.

Cork will still feel that they can do damage up front at the other end. Scoring four goals against Tipp will provide Cork with a massive amount of confidence but they still need to heed the lessons from that game.

Cork didn’t work the ball well enough for long stages of that game. Their half-forward line pulled out too deep and they couldn’t get the ball over the top quickly enough.

The Cork forwards’ possession count hasn’t been high enough, especially the inside forwards. Cork did successfully run the ball more in that game but they still need to get more ball inside and to deliver that ball from higher up the pitch.


Cork will have noted the joy Tipp got from running at the Clare defence in their opening match, but that potential won’t exist if Clare apply the same intensity and heat on the player in possession that they did against Limerick around the middle third.

The biggest disappointment for Clare in their opening match against Tipperary was how they didn’t make Cusack Park the cauldron and fortress they need and want it to be.

On Sunday though, Ennis will be rattling like a boiling tin as Clare dial up the heat to maximum levels.

Cork have made huge strides under Ryan but Cork’s first away championship match under his tenure will really tell just how far Cork have actually come.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

People holding phone with App

It's all about Cork!

Have you downloaded your FREE ie logo  App?

It's all about Cork!

App Store LogoGoogle Play Logo
The Echo - Women in Sport Awards - Logo



Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Contact Us Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Terms and Conditions

© Evening Echo Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523713

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more