Going to qualifier games on a Saturday evening in the likes of O’Connor Park, is a lovely occasion and one of the best experiences of the GAA inter-county season.
I love the way the splendid pitch in Tullamore is located so close to the town itself and it was pleasant early on Saturday afternoon watching supporters stroll at their ease from the pubs and cafes up to the stadium.
It was also great to see loads of children being allowed out onto the pitch at half-time and between the games for a kick-about and a puck around too — Tipperary youngsters had the hurls.
Sometimes Croke Park can feel a bit sterile and military in its organisation and we should not forget or lose the sense of fun and community that makes us love Gaelic games.
The Cork supporter that made the trip to Offaly saw their side mix the good and the bad.
Stung by the scalding they took off Kerry in Munster, Brian Cuthbert has decided to go with the sweeper system.
Wing-forward Colm O’Driscoll lined out about 20 yards in front of his full-back line and played the role reasonably well.
Mark Collins also shunted back whenever he was needed and it was not unusual to look out and see only three Cork forwards in their half of the field.
That strategy worked reasonably well in the first half, however, Sligo lacked any real plan up front and they could only manage two points in that first half.
At one stage in the second half Pat Flanagan’s side looked a badly beaten side, however, Cork took their foot off the gas and allowed Sligo back into it and gain some momentum. A dangerous thing to do, especially against better opposition.
The way Stephen Coen was allowed in for a very soft goal won’t do next weekend against Mayo.
On the plus side it was terrific to see Colm O’Neill back moving well and his 10 points was one of the highlights of the evening.
Paul Kerrigan was purring nicely and he still has the pace to burn defenders. If Cork are to have a chance against Mayo, they will need those two in good form.
They will also need to have Brian Hurley back to his best.
He is a fine young player, however, he is not in the form he was during the league and he had one really bad wide off his right that suggested a player lacking confidence.
If he could fire on all cylinders on Sunday, and do real damage on Ger Cafferkey — and I believe he can — it would bore a deep hole in Mayo’s defence.
It will be interesting to see if Thomas Clancy (Clon) is at centre-back for the next day.
Damien Cahalane added a real sense of urgency, pace and flair to the half-back line when he came on and he could be the young buck to put Aidan O’Shea on the back foot if he tore up Croke Park and rallied the Cork troops. I would go with that option.
Fintan Goold also put himself in the frame for the quarter-final as he did a few good things on his introduction for Ian Maguire.
A real catch-22 for Brian Cuthbert is this; — if Cork play Colm O’Driscoll as an out and out sweeper next Sunday, he is handing a free licence to attack to Mayo’s Lee Keegan and that is a dangerous thing to do.
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