Cork’s victory over Dublin should fill JBM’s depleted side with confidence. They looked completely out-of-sorts in the first half at Nowlan Park, but that storming second-half performance showed the Rebels won’t be far away from major honours in 2015.
The marginal gains are clearly crucial in a one-point win, and while Cork had less possession, won less puckouts and had a lower tackle count than their opponents, they did top one crucial stat and that was shot conversion ratio.
Cork’s scoring chance conversion ratio of 71% was the best of the four teams on show on Sunday.
Dublin’s was at 59%, with Tipperary managing a lowly 52% in their game against Waterford, who achieved a decent 61%.
Cork’s poise in front of goal was largely due to the brilliance of Patrick Horgan from placed balls and play. His 17-point tally was phenomenal, yet Cork still need to get the Glen Rovers man more involved in the game.
It took nearly 20 minutes for Horgan to have a meaningful touch from play and against Waterford’s massed defence, Cork’s most deadly forward will need to be a lot more creative in order to gain possession.
The other key stat in the Cork/Dublin game was the free count. Cork conceded just seven frees in comparison to Dublin’s 13. Waterford matched Cork’s discipline levels, also giving up seven frees, while Tipperary were duly punished for creating 13.
Pauric Mahony had a similar influence to Horgan on the second semi-final, scoring 14 points and it is the battle between the league’s two top marksmen that could decide the outcome of this year’s Allianz League final.
One other revealing stat from the Waterford-Tipperary semi-final was the work rate of the respective forward lines. In the modern game, most managers preach attack as the first line of defence, and Eamon O’Shea has some numbers to show his forward line from Sunday.
The Waterford forward line and midfield had a collective tackle count of 43 while their Tipp counterparts could only manage 23. The pressure applied by Waterford’s players is probably the main reason why Tipp’s shooting accuracy was so poor on Sunday.
Both Dublin and Cork managed collective tackle counts in the low 30s but this is also an area where Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his management team will need to examine before their two encounters with Derek McGrath’s side.
Much was made of the Waterford ‘system’ in the build-up to the semi-final but Tipperary easily penetrated the Waterford rearguard in the opening 20 minutes before McGrath’s men began to take control of the game.
The displays of both centre-backs Padraic Maher and Austin Gleeson were highlights of a thrilling game. Maher had 24 possessions and Gleeson 21 and at times the pair resembled tennis players, hitting the ball back and forth to each other. The clash of Gleeson and Seamus Harnedy will be just one of the mouth-watering head-to-head’s in the weeks ahead.