Cork protect young guns

ALLIANZ FL DIVISION 1
Cork v Kildare
Cork senior football selector Brian Cuthbert has admitted late changes to the side before last week’s Allianz Football League loss to Dublin were not announced in advance so as not to put the incoming players under pressure.

Clonakilty’s Tom Clancy and John O’Rourke of Carbery Rangers, both of whom are U21 this year, as well as Tom Clancy (Fermoy) and Castletownbere player Andrew O’Sullivan were all late inclusions last Saturday at Croke Park, with the two Clancys and O’Rourke making their league debuts.

As a result, management did not want undue attention on the newcomers.

“We had a couple of injuries, Michael Shields was unable to take any part, and a couple of circumstances contrived to put things the way they were,” Cuthbert said. “As well, we wanted to give the young lads a bit of protection.”

Across 13 league and championship games last year, Cork only started with the selected 15 in four of those. For tonight’s game with Kildare at Páirc Uí Rinn, the Rebels have picked the same side which was chosen for the Dublin game, before Shields, captain Graham Canty, Alan O’Connor and Ciarán Sheehan were replaced.

While not commenting on whether there would be late alterations, Cuthbert acknowledged an overall improvement had to be seen.

“Dublin were far sharper than us last week,” he said.

“Possibly that’s down to having more games played, but we can’t be using that as an excuse for our performance because so many of the mistakes we created ourselves.

“If you concede 1-18 in any game, it’s a recipe for disaster, and we’re very conscious of the need to tighten up and try to do our very best, it’s important to up the intensity.”

In that regard, the Bishopstown native feels Kildare will be a good challenge, especially considering the Lilywhites’ impressive win over Donegal in the opening game at Croke Park last week.

“Absolutely, they were very good,” he said. “Just looking at their game, they brought a huge intensity and really worked hard, we know that they’re a good side. Considering the way we played, it’s definitely going to be a huge step up.”

With six games remaining in the league and top four teams qualifying for the knockout stages, however, at the same time Cuthbert is not panicking after just one defeat.

“You’re only one match in,” he said. “There are still plenty of opportunities for us, and I don’t think we’re under any more pressure than we were last week. If you look at it, the team that started last week had only eight players who began against Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final last year, when you’re bringing in a lot of new players it will take time.

“We had three U21s playing last week [Clonkilty’s Clancy, O’Rourke and Damien Cahalane], so it was a great opportunity for them to play in Croke Park, and throughout the league we’re obviously trying to find the best team, whatever that may be.

“It’s an ongoing process of giving players the opportunity to show what they can do, and then you have to try to win at the same time.”

Picture: SINKING FEELING: Cork manager Conor Counihan looks at the scoreboard after his much-changed team lost to Dublin at Croke Park last Saturday. Will Cork play as selected for tonight’s clash with Kildare? Picture: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

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