By Peter McNamara
“Chill the beans,” Davy Fitzgerald said of the potentially mounting expectations surrounding his Wexford team.
He could just as easily have been referring to the overreactions to losses for Cork and Kilkenny in their respective Allianz NHL Division 1A outings.
The manner in which a team is defeated usually paints the perceptions around where that side goes to next. Or certainly where the ‘experts’ and Pat Spillane’s buddies, the ‘keyboard warriors’, suggest they are headed.
If you didn’t know any better you could say the Rebels and Cats might as well call a halt to their seasons right now; let the others contest the league and championship.
After all, eight- and 13-point reversals in February obviously means neither county will even compete later on.
The same way Dublin should have exited stage left after round one, or even Clare, for that matter.
Sarcasm aside, some of the reactions to Cork’s and Kilkenny’s performances on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon were borderline sensationalist.
In the case of Cork, first of all: Were Kieran Kingston’s outfit as woeful as perceived? Or were the Leesiders harshly judged?
As the match was developing grunts of discontent from the natives seemed understandable.
However, if Corkonians remove the heart-strings and bluntly assess the game you could argue an eight-point victory flattered Ger Cunningham’s men.
Had Shane Kingston released Alan Cadogan moments prior to half-time for a straightforward goalscoring opportunity instead of flicking the sliothar over the bar the contest thereafter could have taken on a different path.
With more experience, Kingston handpasses that possession to his teammate, Bob’s your uncle and Cork are back in business.
Additionally, Patrick Horgan was uncharacteristically wayward with his shooting on occasion. White flags you would normally have chalked down before he even connected with the ball were not raised by the umpire. Now, no player is going to be near-to flawless in every match, but it was another minor factor in the outcome.
As an aside, sections of Cork supporters are beginning to question how much the Glen Rovers’ man contributes in open play. Whether such murmurings are justified or extremely harsh is an argument for another day. However, the question is there among certain quarters of the masses.
Would it be wiser to withdraw Horgan to the wing ensuring he can remain as involved in key attacks as much as possible? Ditto Cadogan? Is it counter-productive having both closer to goal?
There will be those that are concerned with the aerial ability of the two players in wing-forward roles. Yet, how often nowadays are goalkeeper’s puck-outs arrowed to these two sectors of the field? More often than not Anthony Nash attempts to locate a player roaming between the half-back line and midfield with his restarts.
A two-man inside forward line of Séamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane might benefit the Leesiders long-term, provided both players are stationed there regularly and trusted to form a partnership.
I digress. Returning to the original point, much as you could argue Cork were not as poor as thought, one could also suggest Cunningham’s visitors could have won by more than eight points.
For instance, it took a wonderful Nash save to deny Donal Burke a green flag from a penalty.
And therein lies the rub. Essentially, using specific moments of any match, you can put forward a thesis on why one team were unfairly criticised following a sizeable defeat or why another could have possibly won by an even more substantial margin.
To be honest, it was more a case of Dublin out-working Cork rather than the former being particularly technically superior.
Put it this way, it wasn’t exactly the world-beating performance from the Metropolitans some reports would have you believe.
Remember, after the display Cunningham’s charges produced at headquarters last Saturday week the only way was up for them, anyway.
And, by the same token, Cork’s true form was not on show against Clare. Taking the result in isolation was foolish of those guilty to read too much into a scoreboard that had Kingston’s unit seven points in front at full-time.
Of course, Cork played quite well however, everybody knows Clare passed up scoring opportunities on the night that may have altered the direction of the encounter had they been converted.
Therefore, when assessing the form of teams, try to retain the view of the bigger picture in order to make a worthwhile appraisal.
There are usually mitigating circumstances that can be found to explain what people can deem as inconsistent output.
Kilkenny, to be fair, did produce a performance below that of what we have become accustomed to from Brian Cody’s group.
Isn’t every team entitled to an off-day, though? Yes, Sunday’s was the Cats’ third defeat in as many league and championship outings. Still, though, scribing their obituary is absolute nonsense.
Cillian Buckley’s move into midfield in Ennis was utilised as an illustration of the gap-plugging Cody has had to carry out in order to offset the unavailability of the likes of Michael Fennelly.
Is the fact Cody’s juggling his players and their positions at this time of the year really that big a deal, however? And even if Kilkenny do end up in another relegation play-off, against possibly Dublin or Cork, who would back against them surviving?
The only real concern Cody will have at this moment in time is how efficient Tipperary appear to be despite the season being in its infancy.
Kilkenny and Tipp, at the end of the day, still set the standard with the latter operating at a higher level for now.
Nevertheless, that may not be the case this summer because the availability of first-choice players will determine exactly how far off Cody’s soldiers are from Michael Ryan’s improvers.
Tipp’s consistency is noteworthy, but assuming Kilkenny are slipping to the point the other front-runners for September honours are passing them out in the race is premature.
A little perspective goes a long way.