Stats show Cork hurlers must find a balance between running game and winning ball in attack

Changes are coming for the Limerick game after Cork needed to feed off turnovers to get scores against Clare
Stats show Cork hurlers must find a balance between running game and winning ball in attack

Cork now face into a must-win clash with Limerick on Sunday. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

JUST as they had done in the league game in Ennis in March, the Cork substitutes lined the tunnel at half-time to applaud the Cork players back onto the field for the second half of Sunday’s match.

The biggest difference this time around was that the Cork management were already out before the players, who they had clearly left to have the last word amongst themselves.

As soon as the Cork players emerged, with the Clare players following just moments later, the David Bowie track ‘ Let’s Dance’ began blaring out over the loudspeakers.

‘Put on your red shoes and dance the blues,’ roared the lyrics of Bowie. The dancefloor was set as the two teams went at it, strutting their stuff to the backing track of what played out to be a classic.

When the music finally stopped, Clare were still dancing on the pitch and in the stands and terraces, while Cork were left walking the blues.

A section of the 18,659 attendance at Cusack Park. Picture: Sportsfile
A section of the 18,659 attendance at Cusack Park. Picture: Sportsfile

The trip home will have been a sombre spin when Cork will feel they should have got something from the match but they’re still very much alive in this championship.

They will have to go into Limerick’s backyard and either beat them or eke out a draw on Sunday but Sunday’s display will have confirmed for Pat Ryan, his management and players that Cork are more than capable of doing so.

If Cork are to win that game, they will probably need goals but Sunday again proved how capable they are of getting them. Cork scored three against Clare but they could have raised six green flags.


The biggest lesson Cork will have learned from this defeat though, is on turnovers, especially from ball played into their forwards, particularly their inside line. Of the 33 balls Cork played into their attack, they only won nine. They did mine 1-6 from that possession but too much of that possession is being used to hurt Cork at the other end. In total, Cork shipped 2-8 from turnovers.

Cork have a couple of issues to address around their set-up and attacking formation. They need Patrick Horgan and Seamus Harnedy on the pitch but how can they get the most out of them?

Horgan and Harnedy only had eight possessions in the first half but four points and a goal assist from Horgan for Conor Cahalane’s strike was a high dividend from that supply.

In the second half, Horgan and Harnedy’s possession count was limited to just four, which amounted to 1-1 from Horgan and Harnedy being fouled for a converted free.

It wasn’t just all into their full-forward line but of the 14 balls Cork played into their attack in that second half, Cork won just three.


When those numbers were so poor in the first half, Cork knew they had to run the ball more in that third quarter, which they did. The Cork penalty came from that source but once Clare began to erect more barricades around the middle third and across their own 45, Cork were forced to play more long ball, which Clare repeatedly ate up.

Clare had a rookie (Adam Hogan) and a player whose form had been under scrutiny (Rory Hayes) in that full-back line, which Cork would have been looking to attack, particularly after the experienced Conor Cleary went off injured in the first half.

David McInerney went back into the full-back line after Cleary went off but Hogan and Hayes attacked the ball with real intent and repeatedly beat their markers out to the ball.

Could Cork have started Shane Kingston in the full-forward line? Is that something they need to do against Limerick?

In fairness to Cork, they did a lot right in this game. Their work-rate was always high. They were highly productive off Clare turnovers, scoring 3-10 from that source. But Cork’s poor patches in the game really hurt them.

Just as importantly, they didn’t get some of their defensive match-ups right and Cork couldn’t get a handle on some of Clare’s key players; Tony Kelly scored 1-4 from six shots in the first half; Shane O’Donnell either scored or was directly involved in 1-5 in the second half.

Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Ciaran Joyce of Cork. Picture: John Sheridan/Sportsfile
Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Ciaran Joyce of Cork. Picture: John Sheridan/Sportsfile

Clare had marginally more possession but they got off nine more shots (45-37). Cork’s overall conversion rate was 56%, with their conversion rate from play 60%. Cork missed six shots from placed balls.

Unlike the other games in Munster, particularly against Waterford, Cork got a low return from their own puck-out, mining just 0-6 from that source. Yet their productivity off turnovers more than compensated for that shortfall.

Cork will need to pick a different team for Limerick and they probably will. Kingston (who scored a point and was fouled for a penalty) will surely come into the reckoning to start, as will Shane Barrett, who had three direct assists.

Despite the defeat, Ryan will be happy with so many aspects of the performance. Damien Cahalane and Ciarán Joyce played really well. Similar to the Tipp game, Cork showed massive battling qualities and resilience to get back into the match when Clare were threatening to stretch away from them.

On Sunday though, Cork will have to show more mental and physical fortitude than ever before when they square up to Limerick in a real old-school winner-takes-all, loser-goes-home championship match.

The music has stopped for now but the dancefloor will soon clear for the biggest dance of all next Sunday.

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