Peadar Healy ventured up to Clones the day after his Cork charges limped out of Pearse Park with their championship status still intact. The Cork football manager couldn’t but be impressed with Donegal’s first-half showing, even more impressed was he with Tyrone’s second-half display. Tyrone did, in Healy’s own words, a Donegal on Donegal.
Cork, though, won’t be attempting any such feat this weekend.
Q: That Ulster final surely left you with plenty to ponder on the long drive back to West Cork on Sunday evening?
They were contrasting halves, but, having said that, tactically, it was very interesting how both teams played. Donegal put themselves in a position to win it. Had Michael Murphy converted that late free, they could be Ulster champions. You have to hand it to Tyrone for the manner in which they came back and went ahead towards the end. You’d be well impressed with Donegal, their structure, how well organised they are and how much they believe in their system.
Q: As Mickey Harte’s men showed, though, this is a system that can be dismantled by pushing up on Donegal’s kick-outs and the manner in which Tyrone stretched themselves when attacking.
Tyrone did a Donegal on Donegal. You’d have to hand it to Mickey Harte to be able to grind out a result like that. And that day in Clones, it was all about getting a result.
Q: So, will Cork follow a similar route in attempting to mirror the defensive structure of Rory Gallagher’s side?
You have to play your own game because you just can’t change in two weeks. Donegal are playing that system since 2012. They are working on it a long time. They believe in it and it’s getting them a long way. Donegal were a team at the start of the year who believed they could win an All-Ireland. Okay, they lost the Ulster championship, but Donegal are still a strong team that you would tip to win an All-Ireland. You’d expect a reaction from them on Saturday. Mark McHugh does have to be watched, but so too must Murphy, Paddy McBrearty, Karl Lacey, the goalkeeper and his kick-outs.
Q: Given the experience flowing through this Donegal team — nine of the starting Ulster final side were present inside the whitewash on the afternoon of their 2012 All-Ireland final win — are the Cork management tempted to opt for older heads from the off?
You do need experience, I accept that. But you also need youth. Youth brings legs. Younger lads play off the cuff more. I would like that as well.
Q; You’d have no fear so of Sean Powter standing toe-to-toe with Frank McGlynn or Michael Hurley rubbing shoulders with one of the McGees?
I wouldn’t. I have real good faith in these young fellas. They play with abandon. It gives life to the team and it encourages the team. I think we could do with a few of them on the pitch against Donegal. Young Hurley got his first start the last day up in Longford and Powter came on. They give fierce energy to it all and they’ve no fear. They just go for it and it’s great to see. It is going to be a tough call to be picking 15 for a start and, then, decide on 26, especially when the players are putting in so much effort and work inside in training at the moment.
Q: Are you content with the way Cork’s summer is taking shape after a desperately turbulent start?
The Tipperary game, no, I wouldn’t be happy with that. The lads have knuckled down big time since, especially in defending, and it’s the fellows from the 2010 team who are driving this, the likes of Donncha O’Connor, Daniel Goulding, Fintan Goold, Paddy Kelly, Paul Kerrigan, Alan O’Connor. It is great to see. The younger fellows are watching all this and taking it in. There are new leaders emerging and that’s what it’s about.
Q: Longford and Limerick were important wins, but you’d accept that Cork are still chasing a big championship result?
Yes. Longford, to be fair, was a tough place to go and get a result. I was up there in 2010 when John O’Mahony’s Mayo lost. I was there again this year when they scored 2-19 against Down. Restricting them to just 1-6 was encouraging because we had been very vulnerable at the back, conceding a lot of scores, but we’ve been working very hard on that.
Q: A brief word on the newest additions to the panel, Aidan Walsh and Alan Cadogan, how are they faring?
Aidan Walsh is putting in an awful lot of work, even on his own. He came off during last Thursday’s training just as a precaution. With regard to Alan, it’s about getting him into the way we’re playing, the way we’re thinking and getting used to the players around him. Having played inter-county hurling is a big help. Alan understands what needs to be done and the commitment you have to make. He’s also a quick learner. We all know what he did at U21 level, but it’s just the transition now. Pity we didn’t have him for a bit longer.
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