Sylvester Hennessy: Forward line frailties at root of Cork’s downfall

Cork’s inability to break down the Waterford ‘system’ once again proved their downfall in Thurles.

Sylvester Hennessy: Forward line frailties at root of Cork’s downfall

For the second successive game a complete malfunction of Cork’s inner forward line was crucial to the outcome. While many may point to Cork’s defensive frailties for the loss it was their inability to win clean possession in their attack that must have really frustrated Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his management team.

Cork delivered the ball into their opposition ’45 metre line on 37 occasions and only won clean possession 11 times.

When you consider the fact that Waterford sent 22 deliveries into the Cork ’45 and won 15 of them the contrast in the team’s ability to win possession in key areas is evident. At half time, despite dominating for most of the opening 35 minutes, the possession stats for the Cork full forward line were extremely poor: Luke O’Farrell had four possessions, Alan Cadogan three and Patrick Horgan just two.

Horgan actually won both those by dispossessing a Waterford player which meant that Cork’s star forward failed to win one delivery before the break.

In contrast, Maurice Shanahan caused endless headaches at the other end of the field.

It was only late in the game that Cork finally found a source of winning possession in front of the Waterford goal when both Conor Lehane and Pa Cronin claimed long deliveries. That work led to Patrick Horgan hitting 1-1 from placed balls.

One thing that both Cork and Waterford cannot be accused of is lacking effort with both sides tackle counts reaching the middle 70s.

It is interesting to note however that on Saturday in Croke Park a tier 2 hurling county like Kerry recorded a tally of 97 tackles/hooks/blocks on their way to Christy Ring Cup success and as the championship goes on that is the type of work rate that will be required by both Waterford and Cork if they are to compete with a team like Kilkenny for example.

Another area where Cork struggled was their puck-out strategy.

Once again Cork were forced to play the game on Waterford’s terms. While Cork won 54% of the puck-outs, this was chiefly due to their decision to go short with a number of deliveries — Anthony Nash went short with 11 of his 36 puck-outs. Cork won just 10 of the 25 that he delivered long and the absence of Seamus Harnedy, despite Pa Cronin’s superb performance, proved crucial in this area.

Waterford used the short puck-out on seven occasions from their 31 puck-outs but the difference between both strategies was that Stephen O’Keeffe generally delivered the ball to a team-mate in space as opposed to the Cork tactic of taking a puck-out to a member of the full-back line who was in turn bottled up as he received the ball.

One negative stat from a Waterford point of view was the fact that they only converted 53% of their scoring chances while Cork fared much better with a 63% return.

It was noticeable however that the Waterford players were instructed to shoot from distance and even if the ball did go wide the Waterford management were confident that their team could press the Cork restart and win back possession. Plenty to ponder for both managements ahead of their different routes to championship glory in 2015.

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