Donncha O'Connor warns Cork not to wallow in referee regrets

Donncha O'Connor warns Cork not to wallow in referee regrets
The Cork team huddle after the Munster Football Final on Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile

Self-pity over bad luck and refereeing decisions has cost Cork in the past, Donncha O’Connor believes.

The ex-Cork attacker has warned that the current crop must not get distracted by complaints about Anthony Nolan’s officiating in last Saturday’s Munster final.

Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast, O’Connor said he was impressed with the way Cork manager Ronan McCarthy handled questions about Nolan’s performance, with many observers unhappy the free count went substantially in Kerry’s favour.

“One good thing I saw after the match; someone obviously asked Ronan about the referee, and he didn’t acknowledge it, he said nothing about the referee.

“I’ve heard a lot of people giving out about it in the last few days. But if that seeps into the Cork camp, we’re going to be under pressure. Because players will start feeling sorry for themselves.”

O’Connor was playing in the 2015 final when a controversial second-half James O’Donoghue penalty helped Kerry escape with a draw, winning the replay.

“It happened to us in 2015 in Killarney. The penalty. As a team, we tried to forget about it but there was a lot of people on about it. I think we’ve got caught on it before. But Ronan certainly has dismissed it. And the players, I’d imagine are too.

"But the public have been on about it. And they can’t listen to that. You’ve got to get that thinking out of your system.

"They could have beaten Kerry. Maybe they could. But let’s be realistic, Kerry missed goal chances too."

“Tuesday they are back in training. It’s so important that they have a good session and that they park the weekend.

“They got a good game under their belt. I know they got beaten, but the confidence should be high enough. I was impressed with a lot of their rookies. I just hope they get a bit of luck in the qualifiers because they haven’t got any luck in the last few years.”

After the total collapse in last year’s final, the Ballydesmond All-Ireland winner was particularly impressed by the resilience Cork showed after Kerry’s lightning start to Saturday’s decider.

“Cork went seven points down and it didn’t look good. They showed grit to stick in there and fight back. I thought our two wing backs were outstanding, Mattie Taylor and Liam O’ Donovan. O’Donovan must have had five or six turnovers and he’s only a rookie. He really stuck at it.

“Defensively, we were left one-on-one a few times and James Loughrey and Kevin Flahive did reasonably well. David Clifford scored three or four points, but Flahive did a decent job on him. There was never any time during the game where I felt they have to make a switch.”

Referee Anthony Nolan sends off Paul Geaney of Kerry last Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile
Referee Anthony Nolan sends off Paul Geaney of Kerry last Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile

Manager Ronan McCarthy has come under fire following the county’s relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz League, but O’Connor feels the Douglas club man’s management style is now beginning to have an impact on his players.

“Ronan leaves it up to his players to sort out a problem on the field. He wants everyone to take responsibility themselves. He isn't going to be putting an arm around your shoulder and telling you how to work it out. He wants you to work it out.

“That probably put him under pressure. Because he was leaving it to lads to sort things out for themselves on the pitch, instead of giving instructions all the time. Maybe we lost one or two league games because of problems he wanted the boys to solve themselves.

“I’m not saying the last couple of years weren't a tight group, but maybe it didn’t click when it should have clicked. But they’ve really gelled together as a squad in there. And it makes the difference in a tight game.”

GAA podcast: Should Kerry sweep? Cork binning excuses. The adoration of Michael Murphy. Tripping Dublin Mike Quirke reviews the GAA weekend with Oisín McConville, Donncha O'Connor and Tony Leen.

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