Kieran Kingston seeking 'consistency of performance, consistency of attitude' from Cork hurlers

'You saw against Limerick we were very competitive during regulation time in both halves, but then were poor once the board went up for additional time'
Kieran Kingston seeking 'consistency of performance, consistency of attitude' from Cork hurlers

Cork manager Kieran Kingston: 'Having 20 opportunities at goal and missing them, it’s an awful lot. It’s uncharacteristic of our group. I would be expecting a huge improvement'. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Consistency of performance right through the 70-plus minutes and greater economy in the opposition half of the field are the two boxes Cork must tick if they are to overcome Clare in Saturday's second-round qualifier.

At the root of Cork’s opening day championship defeat to Limerick three weeks ago were the two goals conceded in first-half stoppages.

With proceedings deadlocked at 1-7 to 0-10 as the clock spilled into injury-time, Cork, despite a promising first-half and their success in matching the All-Ireland champions across the opening 35 minutes, found themselves traipsing back down the tunnel six in arrears after being hit for two late goals.

Even late in the second half, Cork, having cut their opponents’ lead to four, again dropped off the pace as Limerick clipped the game’s last four scores to run out eight-point winners.

“I’d like to start seeing consistency of performance, consistency of attitude and honesty, and playing for the jersey right through the game,” replied Kingston when asked what he was looking for from his players in this knockout fixture.

“We get that at times in games, but it needs to become a must for Cork hurling that that is a given for every game, right throughout the 76 or however many minutes the game lasts for. You saw against Limerick we were very competitive during regulation time in both halves, but then were poor once the board went up for additional time at the end of each half.

“We spoke about it and have looked to address it as best we can, but there is no simple solution, it is maybe a bit of experience and making sure we keep our shape and keep our focus right until the very last whistle.

“When you make changes, sometimes you lose your shape a little bit and then experience and leadership comes into it. They are things we have to keep driving home.”

Management’s other main takeaway from the Munster semi-final defeat was the number of squandered scoring opportunities. Such a repeat cannot be afforded at LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday.

“Uncharacteristically, we missed 1-19 against Limerick. I know Limerick missed a lot of scores, but if you look at the scores they missed, 40% of them were long-range shots. We missed a lot of scores from inside their half of the field.

Having 20 opportunities at goal and missing them, it’s an awful lot. It’s uncharacteristic of our group. I would be expecting a huge improvement in that area on Saturday.

While the above two departments represent the areas where improvement can and must be mined, Kingston said there was plenty his charges did well against the Treaty.

The manager described as “disingenuous” the overall analysis that Limerick were poor on the evening, as opposed to Cork having stifled them for periods of the game.

“Our attitude was fantastic, our workrate was really, really good. We got a lot of things right on the day. We troubled Limerick in many, many ways and we have seen since how good they are, and I don’t think we got the credit for the way we played against Limerick. It was more given to Limerick were poor on the day, rather than anything we did well, and I thought that was disingenuous to the way we performed. But we can only answer those questions or put those wrongs right on Saturday.

Since then, there has been a huge bite in training. Games like this is why they play, is why they make massive sacrifices in their lives.

Switching the spotlight onto opponents Clare, Kingston said the Banner have improved with each championship outing and are “extremely unlucky” not to have three championship wins.

“They have shown in their three championship games and during the League that they are not reliant on any one player. And I have no doubt that is the way Brian Lohan would want them to be and that is the way they are. That increases the challenge we face.

“Three championship games under their belt is a huge plus, as well. In one sense, we have had three weeks off and you say maybe that bit of freshness might help. On the other side, nothing beats winning and momentum. And in a condensed season like we have, going from week to week is difficult if you are losing, but when you are winning, confidence grows, team performance grows, and guys are getting more used to playing with each other.

“Only time will tell whether the one game versus the three games or the freshness versus not will win out.”

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