Ronan McCarthy has likened the honour and spirit shown by Cork in going down to Kerry yesterday to that which Kerry themselves demonstrated in losing to Dublin in the epic 2016 All-Ireland semi-final.
As Cork dust themselves off for a fourth round qualifier on Saturday week against one of Armagh, Clare, Kildare, Laois, Mayo, Offaly, Sligo, Tyrone or Westmeath to join Roscommon and likely Dublin in Group 2 of the Super 8s, McCarthy took plenty of heart from the performance against Kerry, unlike last year’s capitulation.
“We came up believing we were going to win the game and have fallen short. You can win a game, you can lose a game… look, I can give the example of the ‘16 semi-final between Dublin and Kerry, which Kerry lost. Even though they were beaten, Kerry played with real honour and I felt our players played with real honour and spirit tonight.
“But, look, we have to regroup, learn from our mistakes, look forward to another big challenge and we’re sure we’re going to face another bumper team in the qualifiers and look forward to that challenge.”
McCarthy hailed the belief in his group, insisting he never doubted the will of his players even when they were seven points down in the opening quarter.
He said: “Even when we were 1-5 to a point down, I felt we had a lot of the ball and some of our decision-making was very poor and we paid for it at the other end. We have been quite good in recent months at recycling the ball and being patient when the opportunities aren’t there.”
Several chances, particularly three-point ones, came Cork’s way thereafter and while they managed three McCarthy bemoaned his team’s inability to feed the better-positioned player rather than taking the shot.
While dismissing the value of a moral victory and expressing the “thorough” disappointment in the Cork dressing room, he couldn’t have been much prouder of his men. “You’re coming into a game where they’re (Kerry) going for seven in a row, they won by 17 points last year, they’re a fine side.
“Some of the (pre-match) commentary, you’d have to argue was fair enough. What people expected to do. We countered it by saying that I felt there was real quality in the team. I come away from any game, win or lose, I’m interested is the spirit there. By Christ, it was there tonight.”
McCarthy also addressed Cork having to rename their match-day panel on Friday having issued one earlier in the week. “We don’t do dummy teams basically, right. But we were a victim of a system that has come in to stop teams naming dummy teams, so I suppose the problem was we had two fellas in John O’Rourke and Eoghan McSweeney who we knew would be tight.
“Then we had Tom Clancy who went down on Tuesday and in years gone by you could wait ’til Thursday, see could they train on Thursday and adjust on Friday. But the fact you have to name your 26 on Saturday, you are waiting on scans on Wednesday. Did it disrupt? A bit, but to be fair we said to the players we weren’t looking for excuses and we are not. It was a little setback but we dealt with it.”