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O’Leary: Heads must be right the next day

NOEL O’LEARY was making no bones about it.

Cork might have won by nine points but they were far from impressive until Roscommon tired at Croke Park yesterday.

Once the Connacht champions’ near manic workrate took its toll, the Rebels finally found some space and ruthlessly exposed it.

Pat Gilroy’s new-look Dublin proved against Tyrone that they can keep that level of intensity up for 70 minutes though and according to O’Leary the Rebels must plan accordingly.

"That (performance) won’t do the next day" O’Leary conceded. "We came out with the win but we certainly wouldn’t be happy with that performance. There’s no doubt that after the last five weeks, it seems to me that guys seem that bit tired (from going through the qualifiers). But that’s no excuse. Roscommon put it up to us and certainly for a good bit of the game we weren’t able to match them. That’s the bottom line, tired or not. You can have all the excuses in the world but our heads will have to get right for the next day and if they’re not we can be beaten.

"The first 10 minutes of the second half were dicey enough too but we did raise it in the end."

Now a meeting win the conquerors of Tyrone fills Cork’s horizons. And O’Leary expects the sternest of tests.

"Dublin were impressive, they’ve been criticised all year but in the back of my mind I always thought they could come along. If we come out with that performance they’ll blow us away the next day."

For his part, Conor Counihan felt that the pre-match punditry had been completely wide of the mark when writing off Roscommon’s chances.

"It was a tough game and we didn’t expect anything else" said the Cork manager. "Maybe there was some tiredness but you’ve got to give Roscommon some credit. They were hungry, they were very composed for a team that in comparison to ourselves wouldn’t have any great experience at Croke Park. Whatever about me being in trouble depending on the result today, most of you (the assembled press) would be for the sack after what you predicted.

"I think you’re missing the message here. It’s 15 against 15 and some of the write-ups, people talk about this team being favourites… it’s all about on the day, 70 minutes, whoever gets it right on the day. And for us the next day, it’s no different."

Counihan showed his willingness to carry out major surgery on his side during a game, making an astonishing three substitutions at half time. Nicholas Murphy, Donncha O’Connor and John Miskella all made a significant impact with Murphy in particular played a major part in helping Cork get a grip on midfield.

Counihan continued: "Nobody went out there to play poorly today and maybe some of the people that were taken off would feel it was harsh but thankfully it worked."

He was happy that his men were able to find another gear when it was required but wasn’t interested in them being labelled as favourites for ultimate honours, which they are according to many at this stage.

"It is tough going week on week, preparing fellas and for them too, mentally and physically. We’ve a lot of work to do though."