Speaking ahead of Sunday’s NFL final against Dublin, Cuthbert pointed to the evidence of recent deciders when asked about suggestions that Cork and Dublin, viewed until recently as purveyors of open football, had become more defensive.
“I’ve said it a few times, that the game moves in cycles,” said Cuthbert.
“The Dublin team that won the All-Ireland a few years ago played a certain way, and in the league following that All-Ireland a lot of teams tried to play the same way.
“You had the black card and the games were open, teams scoring 2-20 and so on.
“Then last year you had the final where Donegal and Kerry both played in lockdown, and the league this year seems to have followed that.
“I think it’s a widely-held belief that once one team goes into a defensive system, then the other team has to do the same.
“It’s very easy to say, ‘he was calling me names first’, but that’s just the nature of it at the moment.
“I think Dublin have gone defensive against teams that have gone defensive against them, which they have a perfect right to do, and with teams that have been more open, they’ve been more open. That’s the nature of it.”
Cuthbert added that he doesn’t find it frustrating that a manager can dictate a defensive approach for both teams in a game, depending on how he aligns his team: “I think that’s the nature of sport in general — if a team in a certain sport adopts a tactic, then it maybe makes up the mind of the other manager. He has to counteract that and try to beat it. That happens in all sports and Gaelic football is the same.”
The Cork boss points out that Sunday’s opponents had a tricky semi-final against Monaghan.
“That was a difficult game for Dublin, I think, because mentally how do you prepare for a game when you won by 17 points against the same team, the previous week?
“Monaghan had gone away for a seven day training camp and while they were away, they obviously worked on how they were going to play Dublin. They’re a good team with a good manager.
“Dublin are a formidable team — they’re league champions, and everyone’s tipped them in the last couple of years as the top team, so it’s going to be a very difficult game.”
Cork had a good win in their own semi-final over Donegal, though plenty of observers suggested the northerners weren’t that pushed about winning, given their looming Ulster SFC clash with Tyrone.
“What Donegal do in terms of preparation and games is their business, what we do is our business. The fact that they have the Tyrone game on May 17 while we play in June, that would have an impact on training plans and training schedules.
“That said, I didn’t think there was much wrong with Donegal after 20 minutes. Did they suddenly decide, ‘we have 20 minutes done, we’re finished’?
“It’s up to everyone to read into performances in games, there’s a lot of good things we’d take out of the Donegal game and there’s a lot of things for us to work on. I wouldn’t be too concerned with how Donegal felt about the game, I’d be concerned about what we did or didn’t do. That’s what’s important to us.”
A performance is also important to Cuthbert: “I think it’s important we perform. It’s important that the last day we scored 4-11 against Donegal, but we also conceded 19 points. If we conceded 19 points against Dublin, that wouldn’t be good enough to win the game.
“It’s important to perform, to do our basics very well, and to finish the league in a positive frame of mind. That’s very important to us — winning or losing the game.”