TONY MCENTEE: What is the problem with Cork? Is it fear?

Authenticity is who you are.

It is not a characteristic. Great leadership is authentic leadership and it comes with varying degrees of analytical, emotional, and system intelligence.

Emotional is about self-awareness and empathy, while spiritual is the ability to decipher right from wrong. System intelligence is viewing the individual components of a situation and being able to put them together to form a bigger picture. Personality assessors call this ‘Intuition’. The intuitive ability to get organisational excellence from a task, a situation or even from a group of individuals.

Cork obviously have a captain (Graham Canty) who has represented his county and country with distinction. They have a manager (Conor Counihan) who has led them now for many years. What I’m suggesting is that Cork lack this fundamental component — the ability to put the small details together to make a big picture and use it to put a plan in place. Where is the evidence in yesterday’s display that the fine detail was recognised, collated, processed and sewn into a formidable plan to beat Kerry? Where was the leadership on or off the field to address the first-half debacle?

This is not mature reflection. This is living, breathing, on-the-spot must-do leadership decisions. Eoin Cadogan, appointed to Darran O’Sullivan initially then latterly Declan O’Sullivan in yesterday’s Munster final, was given a torrid time. Damien Cahalane, a corner back, found himself playing midfield and completely lost at sea, leaving Aidan Walsh to unsuccessfully plough a lone furrow. Graham Canty played as wing half-back and sweeper leaving Donnchadh Walsh the freedom of the field to cause endless problems running at the Cork defence. These were only positional changes. What about the ponderous non-directional forward play? Surely waiting until the half-time interval wasn’t necessary for the management and the players to correct these glaring concerns?

Cork have the power. They are big and strong. They have recent success to draw from. Martin Luther King Jr said that “power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose”. Is this what is missing? The ability to achieve? I don’t believe so. A restructured Cork team addressing the aforementioned frailties lined out for the second-half and showed they do actually have belief and ability. That they can win the midfield battle, that they can be more direct, that they can work as a team with leadership qualities.

So what is the problem? Is it fear? A team suffocated by fear is inherently less capable of real creativity and innovation. What was there to fear in this Kerry team? Three of the starting six defenders were new to championship football. Killian Young is an attacking wing half-back playing centre-half due to injuries. Of the starting six forwards, Paul Galvin and Donnchadh Walsh were unlikely to score and Colm Cooper had been given the task of a play making centre three-quarters.

Stop the good first time ball and scores dry up for Kerry. Sounds simple? It worked the second-half.

Alan O’Connor and Pearse O’Neill (neither of whom started) won midfield pulling up and, along with Aidan Walsh, took the game to Kerry. Gooch, Galvin and the O’Sullivan’s were anonymous.

Fear seldom exists in the present moment. It is always something in the future, something we are afraid is going to happen. It is a creation of our mind and rarely exists in the physical world.

Debashie Chatterjee (Indian institute of management Kozhikode) puts it neatly. He said: “we all have our own capabilities and talents, but if we demand from a person what is not his natural quality, if we ask a horse to fly or a bird to run, we will do a disservice both to the horse and the bird… “.

Let’s consider for a moment that the Cork team which took their positions after 10 minutes of this match was not the team that should have been on the field. Did Conor Counihan intend it this way? Did he look at the detail and put the bigger picture together? Had he always intended to let Kerry get a foothold in midfield? Did he think that giving Walsh a free role would be an acceptable sacrifice so that Canty could be sweeper?

The Cork team that started the second-half along with a fully fit Cadogan and Sheehan will have a say in this year’s championship yet, but this is only if the leadership questions are addressed and if they revert to a more direct attacking football that suits their stature. Kerry have progressed but teams will not fear them on yesterday’s evidence. They are a work in progress for Eamonn Fitzmaurice and while he is happy with a Munster title, no-one will need to tell him that it is a long road ahead.


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