Dublin’s scoring power will not deter Cork from remaining faithful to the attack-minded approach which delivered the county a Super 8s spot, manager Ronan McCarthy has said.
Having adopted an overly defensive game-plan during the opening four rounds of the league, typified by the positioning of two sweepers at the back when falling to 14-man Kildare in early February, Cork have been playing a far more positive brand of football in recent weeks.
The county’s front-foot, high-press strategy, with a variation of ball-carrying from deep and long kick-passes when feeding the inside pair of Mark Collins and Brian Hurley, has resulted in a 10-48 aggregate total across their three championship outings.
Dublin’s scoring average of 2-21 per championship game this summer is only marginally superior to Cork’s, but it is their 19-point average winning margin which highlights the scale of the challenge facing the beaten Munster finalists this Saturday.
But Cork, as Ronan McCarthy hinted yesterday evening, are unlikely to return to their ultra-defensive ways when lining up against the four-in-a-row champions at Croke Park.
McCarthy agreed with the sentiment that management must not overthink the opposition to the extent that Cork stray from the game-plan which has served them well of late.
“We focus on ourselves and make sure that we continue to build on what we have done well, and we have done plenty well,” he said.
“Yes, we will try and recognise elements of the opposition where we feel we might make gains, and they are going to be hard, hard-earned because Dublin are a very consistent team all over the pitch, but let’s mainly focus on ourselves.
“It was almost an advantage after the Munster final that we didn’t know who we were playing in the fourth round until nine days after the Kerry defeat. We had a week to completely focus on ourselves, in terms of the things that we did well and did badly from the Munster final.
"And then, because you only find out on the Monday who you are playing, you can’t invest too much time in the opposition. Now, obviously, you do something [on the opposition].”
However sizeable the school of thought may be that a comprehensive beating by Jim Gavin’s side would, by and large, nullify the progress of recent months, McCarthy sees only positives in the opportunity to line up against the best team in the land.
"And as I have said previously, we had a gruelling pre-season. If you are doing all this work and training, and you don’t want to play against the best teams, what are we doing it all for?
“You have to relish the opportunity [to play Dublin]. They are an outstanding team, so consistent. I was at their 2016 semi-final against Kerry, the greatest game I was ever at. If there was a day when they were going to be beaten, it was that day. But they never panicked under the most severe of pressure.”
The manager added: “If we had won the Munster final, which we could have done, our Super 8 schedule might have been a small bit kinder in that at least you are playing a home game first before going to Croke Park. I don’t look at it as a negative, though. We’ll go from not being in Croke Park for three years to having been there twice in seven days. The more often we get there, the better.”
From the starting team which thumped Laois, nine have never played a senior inter-county championship fixture at GAA HQ. This unfamiliarity with Saturday’s venue is not a concern, McCarthy claimed.
“Sometimes, young players don’t have any kind of baggage or hang-ups. To them, it is just another game.”
Although last night named on the team to face Dublin, a call on the availability of midfielder Killian O’Hanlon will be made later in the week. The Kilshannig man suffered a head injury against Laois. Eoghan McSweeney (groin) again misses out. The team shows just one change from the fourth-round qualifier win, with Tomás Clancy replacing Kevin O’Donovan.
Cork: M White; J Loughrey, Thomas Clancy (Clonakilty), K Flahive; L O’Donovan, Tomás Clancy (Fermoy), M Taylor; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; K O’Driscoll, S White, R Deane; M Collins, B Hurley, L Connolly.
Subs: MA Martin, A Browne, K O’Donovan, P Murphy, S Cronin, C Kiely, R O’Toole, J O’Rourke, P Kerrigan, M Hurley, S Sherlock.
Limerick (Munster U20 FC semi-final v Kerry): C Walsh (St Senan’s); Jack Fitzgerald (Adare), Jamie Fitzgearld (Glin), K Moloney (Crecora Manister); D O‘Grady (Oola), A Shanagher (Rathkeale), R McCarthy (Na Piarsaigh); J Coyne (Mungret St Paul’s), J Downey (Oola); D Lane (Adare), B Coleman (Rathkeale), J Hayes (St Kieran’s); N Callanan (St Kieran’s), J Molyneaux (Dromcollogher-Broadford), J Cummins (Galbally).
Mayo (Connacht U20 final v Galway: Jamie McNicholas; Jack Coyne, Rory Brickenden, Oisin Mullin; Aaron McDonnell, Conor Beirne, Eoghan McLaughlin; Evan O’Brien, Gavin Durcan; John Gallagher, Paul Towey, Paddy Goldrick; Aiden Orme, Stephen McGreal, Tommy Conroy.