Relieved JBM happy to get another shot

Jimmy Barry-Murphy leans back in his chair and smiles. He has been here before too many times not to know what is expected.

Relieved JBM happy to get another shot

After 70 madcap minutes have flown by a room full of people who watched more or less dispassionately from the Upper Hogan Stand prepare to ask him to put it all in some sort of context.

Him. The Cork manager. A man whose brain must only have been whirring at a marginally less breakneck speed than his heart was pumping. We may as well have been asking him to explain a Jackson Pollock or Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

In fairness, he does his best.

“It was like the Dublin [semi-final],” he said. “When you are involved in it it’s very hard to be on the sideline. I thought it was a great occasion, a great match, some great scores from both sides and Clare were brilliant on the day.

“I’d have to be honest and say it’s a fair result. It’s a fair result from our point of view because they might have edged it probably. But our lads showed great character when they looked to be struggling in a lot of places, the commitment they showed and the spirit they showed, I am very proud of that.

“I thought at one stage, when they were four points ahead with 10 minutes to go, we were struggling to get the ball down the field and Clare were playing with great enthusiasm, great spirit and there was great pace to their game. They are a credit to their manager, in fairness to them.”

It was a magnanimous approach from a man who must have thought he had masterminded a repeat of Cork’s unlikely All-Ireland 14 years ago and the manner in which he was deprived of it was inevitably dragged up for discussion.

Consider the timings of those last acts.

Two extra minutes were added on to the 70 and 104 seconds of that injury-time had elapsed by the time Patrick Horgan sent over his eighth point and one which put Cork into the lead for the first time.

Seventy-one minutes and 59 seconds had elapsed before Patrick Kelly got to puck the ball out and another 31 seconds were tagged on to the tail-end of proceedings when Domhnall O’Donovan pitched his all-or-nothing equaliser over Anthony Nash’s bar.

Cruel.

“Look, it’s the referee’s call,” said JBM when the extra half-minute was mentioned. “There were a couple of decisions that might have gone our way. I have no criticism, I thought the referee was excellent on the day.”

This was a man who clearly saw his glass as being half-full and he lauded his team with words like “character” and “spirit”, while accepting there was no lack of remedial work on which his men will be able to concentrate between now and September 28.

“There are lots of places we need to improve. Players know that themselves. Clare will be looking themselves in the same situation. It’s a difficult situation, a three-week break is unusual in itself. From that point of view it’s new territory for me.

“We just have to regroup, analyse it and see where we can improve.”

Cork’s half-forward line will be an obvious focus. Time and again their thrusts were broken on the rock that was Clare’s half-back line and this despite the fact Davy Fitzgerald dispensed with the tactic of using Patrick Donnellan as a sweeper.

Then again, All-Ireland finals tend to write scripts for which few are prepared and who could have foreseen the Rebels rescuing their fortunes by quadrupling their tally of green flags in the space of 24 second-half minutes?

“Yeah, I have said this before, I never worry when I hear this talk of us not getting goals. We have got to an All-Ireland final [so] we mustn’t be doing too much wrong. Goals tend to come at times when you need them. Lucky for us, they came when we badly needed them.”

And yet, in the end, the result means little despite all the heroics, plot twists and energy expended by players new to the heightened demands of a September in Croke Park.

If it stands for anything when they meet again it may be as a means of filtering the nerves.

“As I’ve said already, All-Ireland finals take on a life of their own. Last year’s drawn match was an incredible game as well and now it’s the same again. It’s extraordinary to get two in two years.”

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