Cork none the wiser as Cavan capitulate

YOU’D have to feel sorry for the diehards who turned up for this All-Ireland football qualifier in miserable conditions at Páirc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday in the hope of seeing Cork building on the lessons learned from their provincial defeat to Kerry.

Their reaction would have been no different from the management’s — without even the semblance of a decent challenge from Cavan and in incessant rain on a heavy pitch, they learned nothing new.

Not that Conor Counihan was prepared to accept these factors as an excuse for a performance which, while admittedly difficult to be analytical in making a valid judgement, wasn’t expected.

Counihan said: “I don’t know if you drop your standards when the game is won, (but) it’s not good enough.

“We wouldn’t be happy with it. You have to push on, take every opportunity you get. There is plenty of room for improvement.”

Tommy Carr, whose continuing involvement with Cavan could be in doubt, remains a big fan of the Rebels, stating he had tipped them to win the All-Ireland last year and is sticking with them to succeed this time.

He likes their constant movement from defence forward, commenting: “they can play the game short and they can put the ball into the square as we saw. They have big men around the place, they are able to win possession and they are very focused.

“I think they are every bit as good as Kerry and I don’t subscribe to the mental thing they have on Kerry. They continue to learn from the defeats they have along the way, especially against Kerry. At some stage they will turn that to their advantage.”

Despite his comment about their easy facility to vary their game, one of Cork’s old failings of over-playing the ball short was arguably the one aspect of their approach which earned most criticism. Time and again passing was either faulty or ball was turned over. In contrast, progress was made when they attempted a direct style.

For me, other than Pearse O’Neill’s second-half goal which resulted from a sweeping movement begun by Noel O’Leary, one of the best scores of the game was produced a few minutes from the break. Graham Canty delivered a long ball out of defence, the impressive Ciarán Sheehan won it at the edge of the square and his quick pass to the equally imposing Colm O’Neill resulted in a superb point.

Cavan’s weakness, reflected in a single point in the first half was explained by a number of factors, not least Cork’s physical superiority. Michael Shields was placed at the edge of the square to mark Cavan danger-man Seanie Johnston and the in-form Graham Canty operated at right-half.

Counihan talks about the usefulness of players being versatile, but it poses the question about the need to make changes from game to game. Carr was dismissive of a suggestion that the ‘passionate play’ which won them a noteworthy victory over Wicklow when reduced to 13 players and down seven points with 20 minutes to go was missing.

“We came up against a side that are simply a better side — and a better side by a good bit — and no matter how much passion or flair you show, it’s not going to win games,’’ he responded. “I still feel that fellows tried hard and dug as deep as they could. When you don’t have the ball you are going to find it very hard to score. In terms of the talent the Cork forwards have and the talent we have, there was a big difference and that is why they are one of the best teams in the country.”

With Cork’s main scoring threat coming from their full-forward trio (outstanding free-taking from Daniel Goulding produced eight points), their overall dominance meant that Cavan were severely restricted in scoring.

“A team can’t go toe-to-toe with Cork and expect to come off better — that’s not going to happen. We had worked a lot on counter-attacking and attacking with pace, but we were up against a team equally if not better at pace and power than we were.”

In front 0-9 to 0-1 at half-time, Cork had stretched their lead to 14 points before Johnston got Cavan’s second score from a free he won himself in the 51st minute. Immediately after that came Pearse O’Neill’s goal. It served to once more highlight the scoring potential of the attack.

Scorers for Cork: D. Goulding (0-8 frees); C. O’Neill (0-4, one free); P. O’Neill (1-0); P. Kelly (0-3, two frees); C. Sheehan (0-2); F. Goold and D. Kavanagh (0-1 each).

Scorers for Cavan: R. Flanagan (0-2, one free)); C. Mackey and S. Johnston (free, 0-1 each).

Subs for Cork: N. O’Leary for O’Sullivan (ht); N. Murphy for Walsh (inj, 40); D. Kavanagh for O’Connor (inj, 41); E. Cotter for Shields (54); J. Hayes for Goulding (64).

Subs for Cavan: M. McKeever for Philip Brady (19); C. Mackey for Brennan (32); Paul Brady for Galligan (39); D. O’Dowd for Brides (46); T. Corr for Flanagan (63).

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