In the BBC hit comedy Dad’s Army the butcher Corporal Jones always carried a bayonet. When asked why, his answer was ‘They don’t like it up ‘em’.
Early in last year’s All-Ireland U21 final a Tipperary attacker, covering back, picked up a yellow card for a heavy foul tackle on Cork centre-forward Declan Dalton.
Tipp set out to lay down a physical marker and to signal to their opponents that this would be different from the easy Cork victory when the sides met in Munster.
When a team sets down a physical marker early, it is to test the water, to check the response. If there is no comeback, it hands a psychological advantage to the aggressors.
In the recent league game, Cork were lambs to the slaughter, suffering a 13-point drubbing. These two losses to Tipp may have given the impression that Cork lack a little when the physical stakes are high.
Tomorrow’s Munster meeting is a hugely important game for the Rebels. Cork have no option but to take the game to the Premier from the start with an ‘in their face’ performance of cold, steely determination and discipline.
Both teams have suspect inside defences. So Cork’s ‘ defenders’ in the middle third must work hard to disrupt the supply from Noel McGrath and the half-backs into Tipp’s dangerous inside attackers.
Energy is a finite resource and big scores galvanise high workrate and momentum, as was seen at Anfield on Tuesday. If quality ball finds its way to John McGrath, Jason Forde, John O’Dwyer or Seamie Callanan they will ‘go after’ goals.
Tipp have created more goal chances than Cork in recent championship games. Most of them weren’t taken but that could change tomorrow.
Cork seem to be happy to tap the ball over the bar instead of probing for goals when gaining possession near the 20m line. Opposition defenders form profiles in their minds of what attackers do when in possession. Doing the unexpected can pay dividend.
Vincent Kompany scored against Leicester because he hit a tremendous strike. But he was given the space and time because the defence ‘knew’ that he never shoots and backed off. Cork need to do the unexpected up front as they will need goals to win.
Shane Kingston, Seamie Harnedy (below) and Conor Lehane all have plenty of pace. They need to run at the inside defenders constantly and probe for goals when ‘one on one’ with defenders. Taking a point from inside should happen only when a goal chance is gone.
Patrick Horgan is Cork’s main scorer. Goals must be on his agenda. Providing quality possession to any inside line is vital. Accurate 30/40m diagonal deliveries rather than long raking 50/50 balls.
The Cork defence mustn’t drive long into Paudie Maher’s zone. He is a huge player for the Premier and he raises the atmosphere among supporters when he grabs a ball in the air or drives out of defence. Being tall, his weakness is fouling when defending the direct run at him by shorter players.
Accurate ball from defence to a roving Daniel Kearney is key for Cork. Setting him up with quality possession on the half-forward-line, as he switches wings continuously, will force the Tipp half-backs to hold their positions.
They are then unable to smother the space around the ‘D’, creating space, the oxygen for attackers, in front of the Tipp goal.
Puckouts will have a big bearing on this result, with both teams lacking ball-winning half-forwards.
Tipp went long for most of their puckouts in the first half against the Rebels last year and Cork won the majority. Anthony Nash used short puckouts that set up good possession from which Cork ran the ball through midfield and supplied accurate ball inside.
Tipp switched to the short game in second half and in the recent league victory over Cork.
I expect the Tipp forwards to push up, forcing Anthony Nash to strike long. Shutting down Mark Coleman as a receiver will be high on Tipp’s agenda.
To counteract this, Cork could use a short puck to a full-back, who could knock it back directly to the advancing keeper. When forwards mark tightly, channels open up to midfielders.
Nash must avail of these by striking head-high deliveries to Fitzgibbon and Cooper.
Tipp will favour long puckouts into the space between the two lines of attack, hoping to provide primary possession to either McGrath or Callanan, who can execute passes to midfielder Michael Breen careering through the middle or to half-forwards running diagonal support lines.
The speedy Jake Morris will come into the mix on the loop from corner-forward.
To counter Tipp’s long puckouts, Cork could drop back a player from each line so that a half-back becomes a ‘free’ defender occupying the space into which the opposing ‘keeper hopes to land the ball.
A specific Tipp corner-back is ‘allowed’ to receive the puckout, before being closed down and forced to strike long under pressure.
However, this tactic takes organisation and discipline and it breaks down if one Cork player is slow to react.
The benches are now very important. Cork’s Aidan Walsh and Robbie O’Flynn will see game time, probably in the last 20 minutes. But the losses of the unfortunate Alan Cadogan and Colm Spillane reduce Cork options.
Tipp’s bench is strong and Liam Sheedy will come with fresh organisation and plans.
However,all plans are futile without heart and commitment and the team that brings more fire, determination, passion, and especially discipline, will probably carry the day.