Cork great Brian Corcoran has identified an apparent lack of belief in the county’s flagship senior team and suggested it stems from a lack of success at underage level. Cork haven’t won an All-Ireland minor title since 2001 while their U21s last reigned in 1998.
Three-time All-Ireland winner and former dual star Corcoran reckons this is a fundamental part of why their senior team has consistently come up short in huge Championship games at Croke Park this decade.
Cork have lost seven of the 10 Championship games they’ve played there this decade, drawing with Clare also in 2013, and they’ve exited the 2017, 2018, and 2019 competitions with disappointing losses there despite leading in the second half of all of those games.
Corcoran discounted the idea of a Croke Park hoodoo and said it’s more likely that the players simply struggle for belief when it comes to the business stage of the Championship.
“There are a lot of good players there but I suppose there isn’t the habit of winning,” said Corcoran. “The team I played with, the likes of Dónal Óg, Seán Óg, Joe Deane and these guys — they were used to winning and they had the mindset of winning because they had won minor, they had won a couple of U-21s, so there was a belief there.
“But you wonder, the guys that are there now, do they actually believe it? In 2013, they almost had that game won. They literally had that game won, the drawn game, and Clare got the equaliser.
“Sometimes those types of things can play on the mind in terms of, ‘Are we ever going to get there?’ Or ‘Is there some kind of voodoo against us?’ It’s amazing the mind games that can go on in a guy’s head. I think Cork need to start delivering at underage.”
The Cork U21s reached the All-Ireland final last year and this year’s U20s are through to next weekend’s provincial final while the county’s minors lost the 2017 All-Ireland final. Corcoran said that while Cork’s underage structures were lacking in the past, they do appear to be churning out quality teams and players now.
“Now that that’s in place, hopefully it will start to bear fruit over time but I think we do need to start winning,” he said. “Take even the minor team this year, they had a couple of good performances but again not getting over the line, losing a tight game here and there.
“I think it’s important to get back to the mindset of believing you can win, because if you don’t believe you can win, the chances are you are not going to win. Kilkenny have always had that.
“There’s a lot of new faces, new names in that current Kilkenny squad over the last number of years and they are under pressure because they are following on from a great team, who were used to winning All-Irelands every year.
Their mindset is, and it’s the Cody mindset — win, win, win. You have to believe you can do it and at times on Sunday when Kilkenny pulled ahead of Cork, it looked like Cork had lost momentum and were relying on some of the older heads, the Cadogans and Hoggy to try to pull them out.
“It’s kind of hard to put a finger on it. Losing the U21 final last year was worrying again in terms of there was no doubt that on paper they (Cork) were the better team. They should have won that game. Again, is it a question of belief? It’s hard to tell.”
Corcoran also raised the issue of the Cork championship and how it is being refereed, claiming that a hard line on physicality isn’t helping their senior team in the really big games, like last weekend’s.
“Simple example, if you were out there in Croke Park and went to pick a ball you could be guaranteed there’d be a hurley swinging across you,” he said. “You get away with that at inter-county, if a guy is trying to play the ball.
“But I’ve seen in club hurling in Cork, there will be a free nine times out of 10 for that. I think you are getting softer frees in club hurling and it’s almost like if there is hurley on hurley contact it is a free.
“Now obviously chopping is one thing but if a guy is picking it, you have to be able to — obviously not swing wildly —but you have to be able to try to contest the ball.
“And some of the club games I’ve been to in Cork, I’ve been frustrated looking at why are we blowing frees for this stuff because I’m fairly sure if you go to a Kilkenny club hurling game or a Tipperary club hurling game or a Galway club hurling game, they are not blowing for that kind of stuff.”
Brian Corcoran and Eddie Brennan have been confirmed as hosts of exclusive Bord Gáis Energy GAA Legends Tours at Croke Park. For details, see crokepark.ie/gaa-museum.