Such has been the negative commentary directed at the Cork football camp in recent weeks that it’s become impossible for Peadar Healy’s charges to ignore the noise.
It’s been coming hot and heavy since the abject display at Newbridge in round two, with Brian Hurley first to break silence on the flak they’ve come in for.
“If you do listen to that [criticism] you’ll drag yourself into the gutter,” said the injured Cork forward in the days following the shock upset against Clare. That first defeat to the Banner since 1997 led to fresh attacks on the lack of leadership within the squad, prompting selector Eoin O’Neill to remark in this paper that “a lot of the stuff that is going out there about this team is fairly severe”.
Sunday’s lost opportunity against Meath did little to sway public opinion back in their favour. Nine points up with 25 minutes to go; instead of holding firm, Cork threw a wobbler and found themselves chasing the game in the closing minutes.
Midfielder Ruairí Deane is well aware of the criticism flying in their direction. Not that he’s buying into it.
“Everybody has their opinion outside the group. If we looked at everything that was going on outside our control, we’d all probably have packed it in at this stage,” he remarked.
“There is no point dwelling on things. We can all sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. No one is going to pat you on the back and pick you up only yourself. We all have good friends and family around us and a good camp inside so we just have to focus on what we can.”
The Bantry footballer was one of the few Cork players to show any semblance of leadership during the 15-minute period midway through the second-half where the visitors to Páirc Uí Rinn turned a 0-15 to 0-6 deficit into a 1-14 to 0-16 lead.
Deane knows the stats from this fallow period don’t paint Cork in the most positive of lights: “We conceded 1-6 without reply. That is just not good enough.”
More inclined to discuss the positives from the 0-18 to 1-15 stalemate, he pointed to their response after Sean Tobin had kicked Meath in front in the 65th minute.
“You can take it as disappointing the resistance we offered during their purple patch or you can take the positive because when we went a point down, we could have easily folded and let them carry on taking over and hit 1-7, 1-8 or 1-9 without reply. We fought back. We kicked a great score. We got up the pitch and kicked another score to go a point up. Had it not been for a silly free at the end we could have walked out of there with the two points. Are we disappointed? Maybe, a little. Are we happy that people are fighting back and not giving in? Absolutely.
“We showed in patches that we can produce it. It is just a bit more consistency throughout that is needed. We are working hard as a team. “We don’t go out there to play badly. We’ll all just go back to the grind for the Derry game next week.”
Failure to take maximum points off Meath means Sunday’s trip to Celtic Park is crucial in attempting to navigate safe path away from the drop zone - Cork’s marginally superior scoring difference to Fermanagh and Down is all that has them safe at present.
“It is never going to be easy going up there. Did we think we were going to have it very easy in Division 2? No, we didn’t. We have to grind out a performance against Derry and get the two points for ourselves.”
Peadar Healy confirmed after the game that Brian Hurley’s season is over after suffering another serious injury to the same hamstring he ripped off the bone last July. Such was the extent of this latest setback that Hurley is facing up to 12 months out. “Everyone is feeling very sorry for him,” continued Deane. “We are the lucky ones that we get to play. Fellas like Brian, that will give us inspiration because we know how hard he worked to get back.”
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