From a score difference of +9, Cork’s now reads -19 after two double-digit trimmings where Donegal and Roscommon have scored 20 and 37 points, respectively.
Now unbeaten Dublin, who haven’t conceded a goal in over 320 minutes of league and championship football, confront them.
In the Allianz League, few teams have fared better than Cork against Dublin in Croke Park although their last five game record against them there reads won two, lost three. Over their last two meetings at GAA HQ, Cork have shipped a combined 3-41, scoring 4-20 in return.
The chances of Cork coming away from Croke Park on Saturday with anything other than bruised egos don’t look good. So how can they stem the bleeding?
Here are five pointers:
The playmaking skills of Brian O’Driscoll have been one of the few highlights in Cork’s campaign thus far but to give him a freer rein it would make sense to use his brother Colm, Jamie O’Sullivan or even both as sweepers behind him. Cork will require that extra layer or layers of protection if they are to nullify Paddy Andrews and Bernard Brogan, who came on to score the winning point against Monaghan.
Peadar Healy can be forgiven for some trial and error as he feels his way into the job but he knows so many of these players and what makes them tick.
Ironically, the back-line last Sunday looked to be close to his strongest sextet although the sooner people get the idea out of their heads James Loughrey is a corner-back the better. Loughrey would be best used as a dashing wing-back. The problem for him and Cork is they are short of man-markers and have an abundance of defenders who love to get forward.
Two years ago, Brian Cuthbert was criticised for not using Colm O’Neill enough. Cuthbert argued he felt a duty of care towards the player as he recovered from a third cruciate operation. O’Neill has yet to start in the league, coming on in the last two games but at a stage when he could have little or no influence. The Ballyclough man remains Cork’s best forward, best goal-getter and has a fine record of finding the net in Croke Park. Cork are no longer in a situation where he can be kept in cold storage.
Given the problems they had with restarts against Roscommon, expect Cork to take a simplistic approach to them on Saturday.
Their ability to retain possession in their half-back line and midfield was so bad either a change of goalkeeper is scheduled or it will be short kick-outs for the most part.
That’s a problem that preexists Healy’s term in charge. Cork can at least put the onus on Dublin’s kick-outs. If they’re looking for tips, they would be advised to watch how Monaghan hemmed in the All-Ireland champions and reaped the benefits five days’ ago.
A slight problem for Dublin is the amount of coverage afforded to them. Their opening three games (as well as the forthcoming meetings with Cork, Down and Donegal) have all been broadcasted live by Setanta Sports.
They have well and truly been put under the microscope and the common consensus is O’Sullivan’s dual role between centre-back and sweeper has to be negated. Who’s best for the role? Mark Collins has the all-round game needed.