Picking the Cork footballers off the floor following last month’s shock defeat to Tipperary hasn’t been an easy job, manager Peadar Healy has revealed.
The Rebels return to Thurles for this evening’s second round qualifier against Limerick and given the nature of their last two championship defeats at the venue, Healy says there is an air of “trepidation” in the camp ahead of the game.
“The last four weeks have been extremely tough and there is no point saying otherwise,” remarked the Cork manager.
“It would be fair to say we had difficulty in picking the players up because that defeat did hurt, it hurt big time.
“The first night or two back at training was very tough.
“We felt on the day we could have performed better. We had eight wides in the first-half, whereas Tipp had none. We just seemed to be chasing the game all day long and when we did get back level, we should have pushed on. Instead, we lost the kick-out and they went up the field and got a point from a ‘45. We had a chance then, but we missed our opportunity. There was another kick-out and we lost that from which they managed to get another free. Two down and it’s game over.”
Cork’s problems were rooted in a first-half where they trailed by 2-7 to 0-6 at the break. Both goals were avoidable and Healy reckons Cork’s failure to assert themselves early on, ultimately, proved their downfall. It’s a game that the management have watched on more than one occasion over the past four weeks and Healy accepts the areas requiring improvement are numerous.
“We just seemed to be chasing the game all day after falling behind early. We just couldn’t get into a stride. Frustration set in. We couldn’t settle. We conceded too many goals and conceded them at the wrong times.
“We seemed to be getting in touch and then we’d concede another goal and we’d be chasing the game again. It is very hard to explain. It was a bad start to our summer.”
Having started six of their seven league games at full-forward, Peter Kelleher was a surprise omission from the team which lined out against the Premier county.
The towering Kilmichael forward was introduced at half-time and had a direct hand in several of Cork’s second-half scores. Moreover, he provided a presence and threat close to goal that was sorely lacking during the opening period.
“Peter had a tough time of it with exams leading into the Tipperary game. He didn’t do a whole pile leading into the game. Brian Hurley was flying and he got the nod ahead of him.”
Sean White and Sean Powter, both of whom also made their championship debuts when introduced in the second-half of the Tipperary game, showed well in Thurles too. Is it time a Cork management changed tack and put their faith in the younger members of the panel?
“What I will say is that since the younger lads joined us after the U21 final, they have given us a great lift. There is a great freshness about them. They have no inhibitions and they play with abandon. It is great to see. Powter, Sean White, Peter Kelleher, [John] Mullins, Stephen Cronin, [Kieran] Histon, young [Michael] Hurley, they have been brilliant.”
Whatever 15 players step inside the whitewash shortly before 3pm, the pressure on them will be immense. “If we lose, it is a long way to next January. Saturday is all about a result. Whoever wins [today] is in the last 16 of the competition. There was a lot of criticism after the Tipperary defeat. There is pressure but I don’t think it will get to our lads. It is vital we settle into the game early and once we work hard, I’d be hopeful we’d get a result out of it.”
He added: “We are not underestimating Limerick. I know John Brudair and Mike Fahy, they are shrewd operators. We played them after the league and they beat us in a challenge. They will see us as being vulnerable. They will be looking at this and saying to themselves, ‘If Tipperary can beat them, why can’t we’. Wouldn’t you be looking at it that way if you were in the Limerick camp? Make no mistake about it, the pressure is on Cork. There is no pressure on Limerick.”
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