Cork footballers' Escape to Victory tees up Killarney raid

Cork footballers' Escape to Victory tees up Killarney raid
Cork’s Paul Kerrigan celebrates at the end of their Munster Football semi-final against Tipperary last Saturday. Pic: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

By Peter McNamara

Historically, Cork supporters usually reserve hints of departing the scene of a football crime at half-time for days of trimmings at the hands of Kerry.

Cork’s dressing room at the interval could easily have resembled that plot-line in Escape to Victory where the Allies, encouraged by goalkeeper ‘Hatch’, played by Sylvester Stallone, are prepared to burrow their way out of the ground to freedom via the showering area.

Of course, ‘Doug Clure’, aka Russell Osman, persuades ‘Hatch’ and his hesitant team-mates to return to the field for the second half.

Ironically, the Allies were also 4-1 down at the halfway stage. Difference is, Escape to Victory was an unforgettable classic; not so this Munster SFC semi-final encounter.

There were literally people in the stand that either contemplated leaving Páirc Uí Rinn at half-time or that did vacate the ground.

And who could blame them? Imagine, though, even thinking along those lines as a Leesider when it’s Tipp are the opposition? In football? How times have changed. For the sake of the strength of the code in the southern province, that is a good thing, however.

Peadar Healy said afterwards: “Kerry will be out the gate and on the bus back to Killarney by half-time”, if Cork perform as they did in the first-half last Saturday night, in the provincial final.

Liam Kearns, most certainly, would be gutted at how Tipp allowed the Rebels to remain in contention due to their attack’s ill-timed short-circuiting.

Had the Premier brought their shooting boots in the opening half the scoreboard, from a Cork perspective, really could have been the sorriest of sights when Ciarán Branagan ended the first-half.

Cork’s management team could be the nicest people on the planet, but by God do they draw a host of problems upon themselves.

Primarily, what reaction did they expect by omitting Mark Collins from the starting line-up? Honestly? Even if – and, for the record, we strongly doubt this was the case anyway – Collins was not training well, who doesn’t start their most creative player when your decisions have already been scrutinised to Jupiter and back?

Heads up: When ye’re in a hole lads…

In all seriousness, however, Cork’s management need to deploy as vibrant a side as is possible on July 2. Pace, pace and more pace. It’s a younger man’s game now more than it even was five years ago such is the speed at which the sport is evolving.

With the news on Monday that Páirc Uí Chaoimh will not be available, the Leesiders’ task becomes more onerous as Killarney will be utilised once more instead.

James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney (pictured), between them, could out-score Cork if the Kingdom dominate the middle-third. Pic: Sportsfile
James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney (pictured), between them, could out-score Cork if the Kingdom dominate the middle-third. Pic: Sportsfile

However, Cork now have an opportunity to revive their flagging campaign by simply attacking Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s men as if their lives depend on it in a manner akin to the closing 20 minutes produced on Saturday.

Cork’s only hope of giving Kerry a run for their money is if they play with absolute abandon by committing bodies to the middle-third and attack from that sector.

Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue, between them, could out-score Cork if the Kingdom dominate the middle-third.

Therefore, loading this area with red jerseys will, at least, disrupt the number of possessions they are afforded.

In a recent column I argued both Collins and James Loughrey should be stationed at midfield. It was passed on that a few of those hiding behind pseudonyms on forums thought I was bonkers for suggesting this.

That’s fair enough as everybody is entitled to their opinions.

Yet, a host of attacks, including, of course, Luke Connolly’s goal, were generated by both of those players driving forward from the middle-third in the second half against Tipp.

Neither of the players were specifically positioned in midfield but it would work. We got a glimpse of how it could last Saturday when the chips were down.

With support from Seán Powter (pictured), Mark Collins and James Loughrey could increase Cork's attacking options. Pic: Sportsfile
With support from Seán Powter (pictured), Mark Collins and James Loughrey could increase Cork's attacking options. Pic: Sportsfile

In fact, having the likes of Seán Powter supporting that duo’s darts through the middle could lead to Cork causing Kerry problems.

Its unlikely Cork will turn Kerry over. Yet, manic intensity in the middle-third should guard against the team being potentially taken to the cleaners.

Fitzmaurice’s trump card though will be Stephen O’Brien. He will hardly be left on the bench again for the Munster final and assuming he does start, it is the Kenmare man that could be the match-winner.

The way in which he menacingly drifts forward from a wide position should be the most notable feature of the tussle. A player that could cancel him out is Barry O’Driscoll.

Aside from full-back lines where you need specific operators that can man-mark, all of the rest of the lines on the field nowadays no longer require conventional roles.

Mickey Harte and Tyrone moved those goalposts a long time ago and so detailing a player more accustomed to attacking to the wing-back berth has become more commonplace lately.

Could Barry O’Driscoll cancel out the threat of Kerry's Stephen O’Brien? Pic: Sportsfile.
Could Barry O’Driscoll cancel out the threat of Kerry's Stephen O’Brien? Pic: Sportsfile.

Furthermore, O’Driscoll has proved previously that he can adapt to unchartered environs and were he to line-up next to O’Brien it could make for the duel of the afternoon.

With Eoin Cadogan, Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor likely to be available to Healy again for the match there will be a temptation for the Cork management to utilise the experience of those players from the outset.

However, the trio in question would be better held in reserve.

Cork will find themselves in a more pleasant position on that day if they trust in youth and load the team with speedsters.

Additionally, by starting with Powter and Michael Hurley, for example, you are also pitching in players that have no psychological baggage at senior to contend with from their past experiences against Kerry.

Cork are in ‘nothing to lose’ territory and when you’re in ‘nothing to lose’ territory going for broke usually results in a positive outcome.

It’s a cliché, but, in this instance, it’s true.

If nothing else, it might lift the spirits of the public who have had to endure rather than enjoy this season.

At least Cork are guaranteed two more outings this summer, however.

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