The Cork and Tipperary game was center stage last weekend, and while Tipperary were worthy winners, Cork were seriously disappointing. Not only were they tactically naive, especially towards the Tipperary puck-outs, they attempted a short-passing game that they were not able to pull off. Taking all that into account, there are three key issues that Cork need to address if they are to be successful in the future.
1. Sort out their underage structures.
Cork have not won an under-21 title since 1998. And worse still, their minors have not been been in an All Ireland final since 2007. That is a shocking statistic, if you consider the size of the county, and the amount of clubs. Another issue attached to this is the scarcity of development coaches.
A steady network of coaches need to be readily available to work with various age groups from the age of five and up. This comes back to the clubs. Cork have the advantage of having an abundance of clubs, that could easily provide at least three coaches to develop underage teams at club level, and later on at county level.
It is not a good sign if the senior inter-county team is being made up of club-players and dual stars. An underage system is there for a reason. Provided that the right structures are in place, it can work very much in Cork’s favour.
2. Stop using dual stars
It may have worked in 1990. It certainly is not working in 2014, and will not work beyond that. When Jimmy Barry Murphy looks back over the match with Tipperary, he will have to say that the likes of Aidan Walsh, Damien Cahalane, Alan Cadogan were not up to the pace. Why? Because, in this day and age, it is impossible to expect players to commit to both codes, each of which are so demanding on their own.
Dublin have tried it, Wexford have tried it and it has not worked. It even brings up internal strife within a county, especially at underage level, where you have a young lad who might have football commitments with his club one weekend, but also has county commitments in hurling. What is he to do? It is impossible to please both.
If Cork can field a team of committed hurlers, and also field a team of committed footballers, they will have a better chance of being successful.
3. Go back to the old Cork style
One feature of Cork’s game that was surprisingly lacking was physicality. I have never seen a Cork side so devoid of something they have been known for since the start of the GAA. They need to go back to what they best at. Smart hurling, direct ball, long range scoring, and physical, They were the team of the mid-noughties that put it up to Kilkenny, they could match that physical strength.
The team that was on show against Tipperary was a shadow of that. It says it all when the match stats show that Tipperary made 81 tackles and Cork made significantly less. The short passing game that has crept into Cork hurling was exposed for everyone to see. At one stage, instead of picking out a man up the field, Nash opted for a dangerous short pass out to the man not 50 meters away from him,which was blocked and ended up over the bar.
Cork need to back to what made them such a force in the noughties. They were playing orthodox, attacking hurling all year, and maybe if they had concentrated more on their own game than worrying about Tipperary’s plan the result might have been different. They played the game on Tipperary’s terms, not on their own. Something a Cork team rarely does.
One has to ask, is this Centre of Excellence worth it?, Truth be told, Cork need the money for far more important things than a stadium. However if the Cork County Board can implement a plan to sort out the three issues above, they will do well in ensuring their place within the big three does not falter.
Ashling Dalton, Pundit Arena.