While sitting outside a restaurant in Wexford Town, opposite the splendid bronze sculpture of the famous Nicky Rackard, I witnessed a metal table blown by the wind moving at speed, like a sailboat careering towards the aforementioned statue.
Gaining an early foothold in this game would be the key to success. The performance in the first 20 minutes was going to determine the pattern of this game.
Playing with the wind was the way to go so winning the toss was vital. Wexford won the toss but elected to play with the breeze. Like Victor Meldrew, I couldn’t believe it.
After 20 minutes or so, Cork led by 12 points. Wexford had a mountain to climb. Cork had nine puck-outs in the first half. They won six, an incredible win ratio. Cork keeper Anthony Nash used the wind to hit the full-forward position with four deliveries. Two goals came from these, 1-1 with two clean catches from the excellent Conor Lehane. Four points came from the other puck-outs Cork won.
On the other side, Wexford won 15 of their own puck-outs as well as three of Cork’s, giving them plenty of possession. Twice in the first half, Wexford demonstrated that they had the capacity to control play from defence to attack. Midfielder David Redmond pointed after a three-man move and minutes later a four-man move, started deep in defence by Diarmuid O’Keeffe, yielded a good point for Paul Morris. These were excellent examples of good play against the strong wind but overuse of the long ball threw away hard won possession.
The inside Cork defenders easily dealt with any long deliveries from Wexford’s defence and good Cork support play out of defence set up strong counter-attacks, particularly down the left.
Wexford used Diarmuid O’Keeffe as a sweeper in their full-back line and Cork had Mark Ellis in a free role at the back for Cork. Ellis positioned himself near the 20-metre line, whereas he operated around the ‘45’ against Waterford. He was was far more effective defensively and in an attacking role from the more withdrawn position as his support runs came from deep and were at pace. As a whole, the Cork defence was untroubled. Brian Lawton, who operated in midfield, covered well behind his half-backs while Bill Cooper covered deep from his left half-forward position, a welcome addition to Cork’s play.
Cork moved well up front, varying the point of their attacks and they totally controlled the game by half-time.
The second half was mirror image of the first half. Cork struggled for scores, only hitting five points as Wexford took the game to the Rebels, reducing the deficit to six points by the 60th minute after eight points in a row. But they don’t have the same quality up front as Cork and they failed to create any real goal chances. The tremendous support that Wexford traditionally have got behind their team as they reduced the lead but two superb points from Conor Lehane after a 20- minute barren spell and four Wexford wides in a row, released the pressure valve on the shaky Cork second-half performance.
The Cork management will be very pleased with the first-half display but they should be absolutely thrilled with the second half.
The video is a free consultation on what must be improved for the next game. Cork won the first six puck-outs of the half, five of them short. However, they reverted to long ball as Wexford had done and handed over possession too regularly for this level. The angle of support for these short puck-outs frequently put Cork in trouble. Too often, receivers were static and sideways to the ball carrier. This carries a huge risk, slows the play and sets up easy interceptions.
When Cork began to struggle, Anthony Nash went long from general play and from puck-outs. Seven were lost in a row. Losing four or five in a row hands the opposition an attacking platform.
Support and runs up front, although good at times, is another area that needs some refinement. While the forwards might also be reminded about the value in a batted finish when ‘one-on-one’ with the keeper.
Constant practice and time is needed to perfect refinements in these few areas. A tough assignment for a coach with so little time available.