Cork will not make the mistake other teams have by adopting a defensive approach when facing the Dubs, half-back Tomás Clancy has said.
Ronan McCarthy’s side open their Super 8s campaign against the All-Ireland champions this Saturday, with Clancy adamant that Cork “will be there or thereabouts” come the finish if they “stay true” to the style of play which led them into the quarter-final series.
Cork’s 14-point thumping of Laois last Saturday had its roots in a high press, attack-minded game-plan which suits this team, according to Clancy, adding that they would be foolish to abandon this approach and set up in a defensive manner at Croke Park this weekend.
“If you don’t take them on, that is only keeping the scoreboard down. If you go defensive against Dublin, it is only a matter of time [before they wear you down] because of the forwards they have. You have to play to your own strengths and believe in those strengths. You have to be true to yourself.
“The way we set up, we just go at teams. We’re way better playing on the front foot. We 100% believe in our strengths, and believe that we are going to be there or thereabouts come the end of the 70 minutes,” said the Fermoy defender, who made his inter-county debut against Jim Gavin’s men back in the spring of 2013.
Clancy, who is back in the starting team after coming off the bench last time out, said it is their aim to “go at” and “beat” the four-in-a-row champions, downplaying the suggestion that Cork might struggle to live with Dublin’s pace.
“I know people are saying they are athletic, but we’re a fierce athletic team. What Dublin have done has been unbelievable. They are there to be challenged and that is what we are looking forward to, to see where we stand. We want to go at them and beat them.
“Yes, we’ve been through tough times, but I don’t think we’ve ever once gone out during my seven years on the panel believing we are going to lose.
The 28-year old continued: “Our stats is that when we look after the ball, when we are patient, when we go at the opposition and make the right decisions, we are right in there in any game.
"If we have the ball, they can’t score. And if we have the ball and go at teams, we are very dangerous, especially with Mark Collins and Brian Hurley inside, and the likes of Mattie [Taylor], Ian [Maguire], and Liam [O’Donovan] who have fierce pace. Rúairí Deane, obviously, has been cutting up defences. If we stick to our own key performance indicators and take our opportunities, we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
The game plan which delivered 4-20 against Laois and should have produced more than 3-10 against Kerry is worlds apart from the defensive approach which management favoured earlier in the year. McCarthy and his backroom staff were understandably keen to avoid a repeat of the 17- and 16-point hammerings which ended - and soured - their 2018 season, but went too far in attempting to make Cork defensively solid.
Clancy was one of two sweepers put in place when Kildare visited Páirc Uí Chaoimh in early February and it was so noticeable how he and Mark Collins would immediately turn on their heels and sprint back behind their 45-metre line each time Cork lost possession in the opposition half.
The two-time Sigerson winner said the team had to learn about themselves before arriving at the style of play which has progressed the county into the last eight for the first time since 2014. It goes without saying the players are far happier with the current approach than what was tried - and failed - during the opening four rounds of the league.
“If you saw us at the start of the league, it was a learning curve. It was about finding that balance. Sometimes, it is tough [when results are not going your way]. Some lads can either shy away and walk away or you can go hard at it, and that is what this group has done numerous times.
“We have really found our niche. Everyone is after buying into it and believes in what we are doing. That has been massive.
"It is attractive football, but it is also enjoyable, and the latter point is probably the most important. Every single player is enjoying it. From that, you get confidence, you can go for passes. Everyone is trusting it.
“In fairness to Ronan [McCarthy] and Ian [Maguire], they really turned the ship. We said we’d go at teams and see how it goes. It started to suit us. Management bought into it. They are very open to suggestions.
“Now that we are in the Super 8s, we want to progress. We want to see where we stand against the best teams.”