McCarthy’s Cork team is slowly taking shape

It’s only February, but are summer line-ups coming into view? A chat with Ronan McCarthy indicates that while the Cork football manager isn’t about to pick his championship 15 now, he does concede things are “starting to take shape bit by bit”.

McCarthy’s Cork team is slowly taking shape

“What we’re more interested in is generating competition for places in the group. Take Cian Kiely, for example. He did so well last week that you now have fellows who played in previous matches — Tom Clancy, Kevin Crowley, Brian O’Driscoll, Kevin Flahive, all fine players in their own right — now looking over their shoulders.

“You need that level of competition across all the lines on the pitch. That’s developing nicely and we will continue to do that to try and give opportunities to fellows in the panel. There is no point having a fella, say number 33 in the panel, and not ever use him.

“We’ve used 27-28 players already in three league games — to varying degrees, I know — and given starts to 21-22 players. That’s been very positive.

“Things are coming along nicely. You’d have an eye on midfield partnerships, defensive units and so on. Let it develop itself and come of its own accord. Obviously, the more matches you play the better sense of it you get.”

Cork take on Cavan tomorrow (Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 1pm): “I’ve seen them play a few times. They were involved in the championship last year and played in Division 1. Cavan are a good side who had a good win over Meath at the weekend but we’re more interested in ourselves.

“We want to put in a big performance, having had a fairly mixed bag until now. Against Tipperary, we played well going forward and were positive in the way we played, but were defensively open at times in the second half.

“I thought we were defensively very solid against Down and while we scored 1-13 we weren’t as fluid going forward.

“The Louth match was a fierce mix of some very good stuff and some very poor stuff. A lot of the trouble was of our own making. Poor execution of skills was a factor, too, and we hope our standards will improve. We want a more balanced performance on Sunday.”

Conceding scores has been a concern for the Cork boss, though he was happier with his side’s defending against Down.

“Every team you play against will have periods of dominance, that’s in both halves. We conceded very little when it happened against Down and we were very solid and comfortable.

“Louth had goal chances before half-time. We were caught out on the breaking ball around midfield, but in the second half I never felt we were in trouble.

“Obviously, we don’t want to be conceding those sort of goal chances again. I’m looking forward to the game, which is a top of the table clash. I think we’re more settled. This will be our fourth league game in as well as the two McGrath Cup games.

“We took a bit of a risk against Louth by leaving out the UCC players, but they’re back and available to us. I think the combination of game six and being as strong as we’re going to be in the short term I’m hoping we will get a performance out of that.”

Will playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh present a mental barrier?

“Not that I’m aware of, and if there is they’d better get over them quickly,” says McCarthy.

“It takes a while for a team to establish itself in a new stadium. We’ve seen that across the water with soccer teams. If you can’t play and perform at home you’re in big trouble.”

The decision to rest the UCC players was a difficult one, he says: “It was one that we put a lot of thought into. The danger from our point of view was that we had won against Down away. Down had beaten Louth, who were then hammered by Cavan.

"What you don’t want is a message going across to players that in some way you’re taking the game for granted, which we weren’t.

“We had to do the right thing by the players. They had played four games in the bones of 10 days and it was the right decision to make.

“Kevin Crowley, for example, had a difficult history with injuries and it would have been irresponsible of us to put them out again. We did the right thing by the players and we got away with it, but it’s not something you’d want to do every week.

“If you had asked the players — and I didn’t — I’m sure they’d have wanted to play. That’s part of management. You have to take decisions out of their hands, stand back and say ‘this is going to be game five in whatever period of time. The longer you stay at it you’ll pay a price for it eventually’.

“It also gave other players in the panel a go, fellows like Sean Wilson and Cian Kiely, who did well. There were positives from that.”

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