It could be called consistency, complacency, loyalty (misplaced or otherwise) but whatever it’s called, it defies logic. What are the chances that from a training panel of two teams, week after week the same 15 — every player in every position — is consistently the better 15?
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that, contrary to much popular opinion, whether coming off a win or a loss, I agree totally with the way Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his selectors tweak the Cork team game to game.
They’re at it again this week, two changes from the side that beat Waterford in the semi-final, Lorcán McLoughlin and Conor Lehane replacing Daniel Kearney and Niall McCarthy. This gives those pushing for places hope, it keeps those who are in pole position on their toes.
Mind you, Cork are going to need to be on their toes tomorrow. In their three previous games, wins over Offaly, Wexford and Waterford, Cork haven’t been nearly as impressive as they were when losing to Tipperary in the Munster semi-final. They didn’t have the same bite or fight and if they come into this game with that same attitude they’ll be blown away by Galway.
Look what Galway did to Kilkenny in the Leinster final.
Let’s be honest here too – that was a fluke result, as flukish in its own way as Tipperary’s demolition job on Waterford in the 2011 Munster final. But it was also a warning – if any team is a little ‘off’ at this level, even a team as great as Kilkenny, then against top opposition (and Galway are top opposition) they can be torn apart very quickly.
We’ve all known for years there’s massive talent in Galway. Their club championship has a host of competitive teams, their club champions perennial All-Ireland powerhouses, their underage teams a match for any year after year.
Someday a man was going to come along who was going to harness all that talent at senior level and then, well, stand back.
Could that man be Anthony Cunningham? With every team he has ever managed, be it club or county, hurling or football, Anthony has worked the oracle. He did it last year with the Galway U21s, now has the two men he had alongside him last year – Mattie Kenny and Tom Helebert – with him again, and even at this early stage in their proposed three-year tenure the signs are positive, very positive.
Look at the team they’ve constructed; power and experience in every line – Fergal Moore and Kevin Hynes, Tony Óg Regan and David Collins, Andy Smith and Iarla Tannian, Damien Hayes, Joe Canning and Cyril Donnellan – allied now to youth and devil-may-care exuberance.
Cork have the same mix but is it as potent? Five o’clock tomorrow, we’ll know.