Cork scraped past Tipperary on Saturday evening in the Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final on a scoreline of 1-10 to 1-09.
The one-point victory over a Premier County heavily depleted as a result of retirements, injuries and suspensions has not spared the Rebels of any harsh criticism following the shambolic first half performance.
The Leesiders registered just a single point in the first half on Saturday with the wind at their backs, appearing clueless in their approach. That was 40 minutes of football, considering the five minutes of injury-time at the end of the half. One point. 40 minutes. With the wind.
Having scraped past extreme underdogs, Waterford, at the Munster quarter-final stage in similarly underwhelming fashion, Peadar Healy’s side have come under severe scrutiny for their standard of play.
Healy is the man at the helm and since he has taken over the county’s footballers he has overseen a relegation from Division 1 in 2016 and a failure to regain promotion to the top tier from Division 2 this year. Cork failed to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final stage of the championship last year in Healy’s maiden season, and if performances to date are anything to go by, a short summer is in store for the Rebels again in 2017.
The Cork boss spoke after the win over Tipp, and he was quick to heap praise on his players for pulling through after that atrocious first half display, while admitting that relief was the overriding emotion following the get-out-of-jail style win. He also acknowledged that drastic improvement is needed (via The42.ie):
“The players and management have taken a desperate battering and I think the players responded very well.
“At half time we had nine wides, not a good return, we missed two goal chances which put us under savage pressure.
“But look, the players did respond after Tipp scored the first two points of the second half and they dug out a win.
“They (Cork players) responded again when Tipp scored the goal and they dug in, so this is their win.
“They’re battering us that we don’t have leaders and I thought that they did show good leadership there. They need more of those types of games if they’re going to improve,” he said.
The lack of confidence within the group of players who started for the Leesiders was evident for all to see. There is no doubt that these players, many of whom have All Ireland medals, Munster medals at senior and under-21 and have shown their class in the past, have the ability to form a potent side.
While the performance may be consistently substandard at the moment from Cork, their manager points to the fact that they are grinding out results whilst playing poorly as a positive.
“Particularly after the Waterford game, they took a lot of slack.
“They were snatching at it and kicking it too early in the first half, putting fierce pressure on themselves.
“If Colm O’Neill had scored that first goal chance we got, it could have settled us into the game a lot faster,” Healy continued.
“But look, at half time, we went out and to be fair they dug out the result.”
So, after the abysmal first half display, what was the man in charge thinking, and who stood up to be counted in the dressing room to spearhead the second half revival?
“Once the opportunities came, and they were scorable, you’ve got to be taking them in championship and we made it very hard work for ourselves.
“We just felt that if they could put a few scores on the board, settle us down, we would take it from there,” Healy proceeded.
“To be fair, the players took control of the dressing room.
“They’re very critical of themselves and they’re hard on themselves. I thought the response when Tipp score the goal, Jesus, it was brilliant,” he stated.
Ahead of a Munster final date with Kerry on July 2, originally scheduled to mark the opening of the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but rather disappointingly will now be held in Killarney, it would appear that the Rebels need some divine inspiration if they are to clinch their first provincial crown since 2012.
In saying that, they are there, in the final. Stranger things have happened.
What will Healy and his Cork set-up take away from the narrowest of comeback victories over Liam Kearns’ side?
“Confidence,” he expressed.
“But you can’t play like that for 35 minutes like we did there against Kerry in a Munster final.
“They’ll be out the gate and on the bus to Killarney by half time if we perform like that again in the first half,” he admitted.
On his camp’s detractors, the Naomh Abán clubman had this to say:
“We were under a lot of pressure,” he acknowledged.
“We tried to bring it back and focus on ourselves. Like, I don’t read the papers, but the bashing that they seem to be getting, you know, you hear players talk about it and you’re saying, ‘what are you at?’
“At the end of the day it’s the player who steps on to the pitch. We have plenty experts as you know,” Healy remarked.