Cork 0-18 Westmeath 0-10
It’s early days, and probably what we’re asking them to do is a lot different to what they’ve done before.
Given the calendar, the conditions, the general air of deferred spring and there tends to be an informal moratorium on overdoing the significance of results around this time of year.
Here’s a case in point. Cork’s eight-point win over Westmeath yesterday would have conformed to expectations when it came to the scoreline, for instance, but the construction of the victory left many natives scratching their heads as they left Páirc Uí Rinn.
The home side didn’t score a point for 15 minutes of the second-half and managed 11 wides before the break — yet they killed the game after half time with ruthless execution whenever they got near the Westmeath goal, hitting nine points without reply.
It wasn’t so much the quality Cork showed then, though, as the fact that it was a reverse image of their play before the break.
Westmeath arrived with a plan: they withdrew centre-forward John Egan so deep he collected the ball behind his own centre-back more than once. If the move was intended to create space for his colleagues in the full-forward line it didn’t work, with more than one delivery trailing harmlessly over the Cork end line in the first quarter.
After the game Westmeath boss Paul Bealin said they were more interested in denying Cork space up front, but looked equally unlikely in the early stages. Cork were sharper and stronger — Fintan Goold put in an early shoulder on Westmeath captain Paul Sharry that would have done credit to this morning’s Superbowl — and were soon ahead. Aidan Walsh and Daniel Goulding each had two points from long distance to Westmeath’s points from Ger Egan and John Heslin (free).
The men in red weren’t direct enough however. Their inside forwards were starved of quick ball and Cork were forced to shoot from long range, when their shot selection didn’t match their diligence in winning the ball. Before the half was over their wide count was in double figures.
The visitors offered them a template for progress, maybe: Westmeath cut the deficit to one with a neat Kieran Martin point and equalised through Ger Egan, but the significant figure in the maroon renaissance was captain Paul Sharry’s driving runs. Carrying the ball deep into Cork territory time and again, the wing-forward caused problems every time he pinned his ears back.
Cork keeper Ken O’Halloran had to pull down a 45 that was drifting over the bar, but the visitors nudged ahead — deservedly — with a late Heslin free, anyway, though there was time for Mark Collins to level, five points apiece.
The home side took over after the resumption completely, however. They killed the game stone dead with nine consecutive points to Westmeath’s one right on the resumption, with Brian Hurley’s sweet left-footed strike the pick of the bunch.
Aidan Walsh dominated the middle of the field and Tom Clancy (Clonakilty) gave him good support, using the ball intelligently when in possession. Before going off Paul Kerrigan carried the ball through the heart of the Westmeath defence a couple of times, and all things considered it was a far more accomplished performance than that of the first-half.
Cork boss Brian Cuthbert acknowledged the starkness of the comparison between his side’s display pre- and post-half-time, but significantly enough, said his players are coming to terms with a new approach, not just new voice.
“It’s early days, and probably what we’re asking them to do is a lot different to what they’ve done before. Whether that’s right or wrong I’m not sure, but it takes time. It takes time to build things and it takes a bit of confidence as well.
“There’s huge buy-in from the players — I can’t ask for more on that — but it’s not going to happen in the first game. And it may not happen in the last game. It’ll take time.
“The players are absolutely receptive to it and once we’re patient and we build the confidence levels they’ll get to what we want them to do, because they’re capable of that.”
What many home observers are keen on seeing is more of the slick, direct play from the third quarter. Though there are tougher opponents ahead, it looked a pretty effective approach yesterday.
Scorers for Cork: D Goulding (0-7, 3fs), A Walsh (0-3), M.Collins (0-2), D Óg Hodnett, B Hurley, F Goold, J Loughrey, B O’Driscoll and J. O’Rourke (0-1 each).
Scorers for Westmeath: J Heslin (0-4, 3fs), K Martin (1f), G Egan (0-2 each), R Connellan and J Egan (0-1 each).
CORK: K O’Halloran; J McLoughlin, E Cadogan, M Shields; J Loughrey, Tom Clancy (Clonakilty), Tomás Clancy (Fermoy); A Walsh, A O’Sullivan; M Collins, P Kerrigan, F Goold; D Goulding, B Hurley, D Óg Hodnett.
Subs for Cork: D O’Connor for P Kerrigan (44), C Dorman for Shields (inj, 48), B O’Driscoll for T Clancy (F) (53), J Hayes for Hurley (64).
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; S Gilmore, K Maguire, Damien Dolan; J Dolan, J Gilligan, J Gonoud; D Duffy, D Corroon; G Egan, J Egan, P Sharry; K Martin, J Heslin, A Giles.
Subs for Westmeath: D Glennon for Giles (30), K Gavin for D Dolan (40), Des Dolan for Martin (44), R Connellan for Corroon (54), D McNicholas for Heslin (inj, 67).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).
Talk of the town
Cork’s utter dominance after half-time. They barely left Westmeath out of their own half.
Did that just happen?
Cork hitting nine points on the trot without reply
Best on show
Aidan Walsh ran the show for Cork in the second-half when the Rebels did enough to win.
Black card watch
Er, none. Referee Padraig O’Sullivan dished out yellows rather than implementing the new dispensation.
Sideline superiorPaul Bealin held the upper hand in the first-half by pulling John Egan back to support his backs, but Brian Cuthbert’s more direct approach after the break was the winning of the game.
The man in black
Padraig O’Sullivan of Kerry puzzled some observers by appearing to officiate as per 2013 rather than 2014, leaving his black card at home, but his handling was well up to the standard required.
What’s next?Cork host Kildare next week; Westmeath are at home to Dublin.
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