Cork football selector Ronan McCarthy has described Mayo as "good at tactical fouling" ahead of the counties’ All-Ireland SFC quarter-final on Sunday.
“They’re an experienced, seasoned side and the term ‘streetwise’ has been used. How does that translate onto the field? I suppose it means that up front they’d be good at tactical fouling, the likes of Cillian O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin are good scorers but they’re also key in terms of the little fouls they can commit in a game that go unnoticed but which stop a team’s momentum.
“A team like Cork, which tries to build quickly out from the back, if you can stop them eight or nine times, for instance, which would have happened up in Mayo in the league game with Cillian O’Connor several times without getting a yellow card . . . that can have an effect on a team, and they’re very good at it.
“Fair play to them, that’s a skill in itself to be able to do that on a regular basis and not pick up cards.
“Obviously we hope we’ll be able to play our game and build from the back and move the ball quickly, without having those kinds of obstacles in our way.
“The officials will be there and the black card is there to deal with that kind of thing, and it’s important that the team of officials – and that team element is important — work at that.”
McCarthy pointed out that winning an All-Ireland requires a lot of things slotting into place for a team: “Some fellas come in at 19, guys like Aidan Walsh and Ciarán Sheehan, and they win an All-Ireland their first year.
“Other lads spend years playing and they never win one. The key thing is that as long as you’re there, the group gives of its best and you hope that takes it over the line. But it’s very hard to win. That’s what makes it.
“It’s not even a matter of the top, top teams, it’s the banana skins along the way.
“Kerry won an All-Ireland in 2009 but David Kelly missed a penalty for Sligo (in the qualifiers) that would have put them out. Cork won in 2010 and were absolutely blessed to get past Limerick in extra-time.
“They’re very hard to win, you need injuries, timing of matches, momentum, all of that to go your way. There’s huge talent in the group and we’d hope to produce a performance on Sunday, and generally when you do that you’ll come out the right side of the result.”
McCarthy dismissed suggestions Cork had pulled a style of play “out of the blue” against Sligo last weekend.
“We’re happy enough but there was a notion maybe that this was pulled out of the blue somehow and we decided to go with it.
“Even if you go back to last year we used the same system a couple of times, such as the league game against Donegal at home. We used the same system so it’s one the players are familiar with.
“Nowadays you have to be tactically flexible and players have to be good decision-makers on the field as well.
“We felt it was the right thing for last Saturday. We’d been quite open against Kerry, wide open at times and we wanted some defensive solidity. But we don’t want to be a defensive team either, as we feel we have huge attacking potential. Though we got 21 points we’d feel there’s more in us and we hope to see that next Sunday.”
The Douglas club man praised the Cork players for their attitude and team ethos ahead of the weekend.
“A guy can play well in a game and then you don’t play him the next day for whatever reason. Brian (Cuthbert) has been up front with lads from the start, he explains why, and it’s up to the player to accept that.
“Someone like Paddy Kelly was outstanding against Tipperary, particularly when we were in trouble in the last 15 minutes, but he didn’t get on the last day. That’s the way the game went but there’s no reason he wouldn’t start on Sunday or play a key role coming in.
“The players understand that you pick players for certain games because they have something to contribute, and they’re willing to accept that so long as you communicate that properly.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved