Forget about the referee's performance, Cork and Kerry need to focus on controlling the controllables

Referee Anthony Nolan, is escorted off the pitch after the Cork and Kerry game in the Munster SFC final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Most of the quotes we hear from players and managers these days are complete rubbish.

You know the lines. ‘We know we will have it tough today’, ‘These guys are serious opponents’, ‘We’ll have our work cut out for us’.

All that codswallop uttered from the mouths of personnel whose team could be 1/100 with the odds-compilers to win the game their referring to, at the time. The same is true post-match.

However, every so often there are throwaway sentences in the midst of a few quotes that actually reveal more about how a player or manager really viewed a match, how they truly saw it, the way they would speak to, say, a friend or family member.

And David Moran’s thoughts on Kerry’s win over Cork last Saturday night were a case in point.

Moran stated: “We knew, coming in, that Cork were in a better position than they had been the last couple of years, so we knew it was going to be tough. I know, sometimes, that line is thrown out, but we genuinely knew it was going to be tough and we’re delighted with that. It was a good, tough game and we came out on the right side of it. Sometimes, a good tough game away, when we get through it, you can’t write it off.

“The game didn’t have a huge amount of shape. It was kinda like all-out attack from both teams, running from deep.

That happens sometimes and it’s hard to slow things down and get the shape, but we came out on the right side of it, so we’re happy.

Now, the first few lines are what we have come to expect from people directly involved in a game.

Yet, the second section of those quotes are more the kind that truly tell us something about the mentality of those on the coalface.

Moran’s theory on the contest not having any shape is telling. And worrying for both sides, more so for Kerry as they have greater aspirations this summer than the Rebels but worrying for both all the same.

Now, the dog on the street could tell you the encounter in question had no shape to it, but when a player willingly illustrates that very concept you sure as hell know then to take the form with a pinch of salt.

So, in effect, we learned very little about Cork and Kerry from this fixture.

From a Leeside angle, it was incredibly encouraging to watch the team perform with more heart than we witnessed in the provincial decider last year.

When Ronan McCarthy’s outfit trailed 1-5 to 0-1 in the first-half, you could not help but fear the worst.

Forget about the referee's performance, Cork and Kerry need to focus on controlling the controllables

However, Cork kept chipping away and eventually got competitive. And, of greater comfort still, remained competitive which is exactly what we needed to see.

“Look at the period since we played Tipperary [in round five of the league]. We’ve played 10 matches, against Kerry, Galway, Dublin, Donegal and so on. And we’ve been consistent and competitive in all the games. The key thing in that is whoever we get in the draw, we feel we’ll have the capability of beating them,” McCarthy mused afterwards.

I felt our lads played with real honour and spirit tonight, but we’ll have to gather ourselves again. We will have regrets, that’s part of the learning process, but if we learn from our mistakes, I think we’ll be a handful for anyone, whoever we get in the qualifiers.

"I’m sure we’re going to get another bumper team in the qualifiers but I’m looking forward to that.”

And well McCarthy might, especially the way the round 3 qualifier draw worked out as Cork could potentially get to meet the winners of the Westmeath-Clare or Laois-Offaly clashes.

And, if that were the case, Cork would then be favourites to secure a spot in the Super 8s group alongside Dublin and Roscommon.

Yet, that is for another day. For now, people will focus on the positives from the Leesiders’ display.

However, for Cork to guard against resting on the improved performance produced in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they must be honest with themselves and appreciate that their finishing was appalling, for the standard, in that Munster final. And I am sure they will, too.

If Donegal create similar opportunities against Peter Keane’s unit in their Super 8 meeting, Kerry will be blown out of the water.

Forget about the referee's performance, Cork and Kerry need to focus on controlling the controllables

You could have driven an artic through their defence, at times. And Cork ran through them accordingly. Yet, a lack of coolness in the very best of positions proved costly.

Players were attempting to bust the net with their efforts instead of ruthlessly slotting the ball into the corner the way the likes of Peter Canavan or Colm Cooper would. Now, with respect, I know Canavan and the ‘Gooch’ operated on an entirely different planet, but the attempts have to be of a higher standard regardless.

Equally, the visitors had a, albeit smaller, number of those chances as well and it would have frustrated Keane that they were not availed of.

Now that both counties are staring into the business end of the overall competition, practicing their finishing techniques when presented with goalscoring opportunities is a must, particularly for the Rebels.

Yes, Cork scored three goals which is an excellent return. However, that total should have been at least five.

Or, at worst, fisted points should have been recorded if the players in possession were not completely confident in their ability to slip the ball past Rathmore’s Shane Ryan.

Also, Cork only had five different scorers. To be winning matches at this level, you seem to need around eight men on the scoresheet so that is another area that needs to be looked at.

The referee, Anthony Nolan, came in for criticism given the number of 50/50 calls that went Kerry’s way – the Kingdom were given 27 frees to Cork’s 12 (some reports said it was 27-11, but you get the point).

However, if Cork want to progress and perform even better in their round-four qualifier people must not use that statistic as the primary reason for their failure to see off the old enemy.

That would be a cop-out as the Rebels still generated a sufficient number of scoring opportunities to win two matches.

They just need to learn how to convert them in a much calmer manner.

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