Simon Hartley, the renowned UK based sports psychologist, feels that a team must not only have the objective of winning. It should be even more specific. They must score as much as possible and concede as little as possible. In creating this atmosphere it helps the best teams fend against the dreaded complacency when the whole world and their mother feels victory is inevitable.
Taking this as a guide, could it be argued Eamon Fitzmaurice got it wrong on Sunday?
By leaving such a strong bench and the non starting of some of his marquee footballers, did he feed the complacency sitting in the minds of the Kerry players?
In not starting his strongest team he allowed Cuthbert’s team to grow into the game.
Cork’s tackling and combative style was great to watch. In simple terms they started with Kerrigan as sweeper, got their match ups right – Cronan V Keane, Cadogan V Donaghey and Loughrey V O’Donaghue and the rest packed the middle 3rd of the park, forcing the game to be a running battle. The middle 3rd was highly congested.
Creating this level of congestion allowed Cork to be physical and work in small packs. Work rate was the key. With one turnover at a time they started to believe.
Cork also had an excellent transition rate, the three O’Driscolls were immense in this area. Kerrigan moving to sweeper was a great call. Such a comfortable footballer on the ball, a leader and he would have helped create a confidence in the transition. Although Paddy Kelly didn’t necessarily drop in as sweeper when he replaced Kerrigan, he was brilliant and helped build the Cork confidence. He fulfilled various roles – winning a great “dirty ball” towards the end.
Cork had the numbers to play a running game. It suits their powerful runners and ensured they did not give the ball away too easily within the Kerry defensive structure. Despite Marc O’Se winning the first two battles with Colm O’Neill he had a torrid afternoon. Cork, playing with one forward at times, had space to hit O’Neill. The amount of players they withdrew into the middle 3rd may have taken Fitzmaurice by surprise. Kerry seemed to struggle with the space and often left O’Se one v one with O’Neill.
O’Driscoll and O’Connor gave a great account of themselves. Yes they got dominated for short periods. But they gave a physical enitity. Their short kick outs allowed them a platform to build into their running game.
Fitzmaurice and Kerry will be relieved. They showed utter class in spats. Despite the crowded middle 3rd and the effective use of a sweeper Kerry could always create chances and were certainly more economical with their possession. Congestion the middle area made delivery inside more difficult. However its the sheer variety to the Kerry attack which brought about thid economy. They can go long to the back post or even high and hope – Donaghey will cause trouble. They can comfortably go through the hands and create scores with defenders in close proximity – Barry John and O’Donaghue experts at this. The loop around run, again so many of their players excel at this. They can deliver wide and into space. They can run hard in numbers and create the overlap.
What was interesting about Cork was how they didn’t allow their sweeper to get drawn away by O’Donaghue. Many teams now simply employ double markers rather than a sweeper sitting in front of the inside men. O’Donaghue is adept at taking these double markers on a tour. His movement off the ball is exceptional. Neither Kerrigan, O’Connor nor O’Driscoll got caught up in this movement.
Kerry had shape too. More to be compact rather than overly defensive. Their industrious half forward line of O’Brien, Buckley and Walsh drop outside the 45 where they attack. They get close to their midfield and work from there. They do not concede much ground as it is particularly natural for them to work their sock off for the team. They just so happen to be very well organised in doing so.
Credit must go to both teams. It was an enthralling battle. Two heavy weights doing battle. The loser knowing they may have a Quarter Final with Dublin to contend with. Why was it so impressive?
There was organised defences, quality attacking, a battle royal in the middle third and just to illustrate the quality there was Tea CUP in abundance. In their great run to the World Cup victory in 2003, Clive Woodwards’ England had a saying – TCUP; Thinking correctly under pressure. How often did the forward units do this today?
Bring on the replay.