Michael Moynihan spoke to selector Pat Ryan about the Rebels’ ‘trepidation’ ahead of tonight’s make-or-break clash with Ger Cunningham’s Dublin.
Cork selector Pat Ryan says the Leesiders’ Munster SHC quarter-final loss to Tipperary means they’re “probably going in with a bit of trepidation” to tonight’s All-Ireland qualifier clash with Dublin (Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm).
The heavy provincial defeat to Tipp was “unacceptable”, says the Sars clubman: “The Tipp game was very disappointing — more than that, it was a letdown because we thought we’d perform a lot better than that,” says Ryan.
“We know Tipperary are a very good side, but our performance on the day was totally unacceptable in terms of what we expect from the lads and what they expect from themselves.
“There were a lot of things that went wrong, obviously we’ll be looking at rectifying those Saturday. After the Tipp game we looked at everything — how we’re training, the rest, the physical side, everything to try to get a different tune out of the lads, and hopefully we’ll see a better performance tonight.
“We’re probably going in with a bit of trepidation after a defeat like that.”
Ryan acknowledged Cork’s tactics didn’t work in that loss. “People will obviously talk about the sweeper and so on but if you look at it, it wasn’t really a sweeper we played. A sweeper normally plays 45m from goal, while what we had was really a second full-back.
“And that worked to the degree that we kept Seamus Callanan as quiet as he’s been in a long while, but we just didn’t use the ball well enough and didn’t work hard enough up the field, we didn’t make ourselves available for William Egan, who probably had the most possessions of any player.
“In terms of cutting off the supply to Callanan it worked, but our use of ball didn’t. That’s where we let ourselves down.
“To hold Tipp to one half-shot on goal was good, and that’s what we were trying to do, but we didn’t use the ball on the other side.”
Ryan rejects suggestions Cork don’t have quality players but says the standard of championship hurling in the county must improve.
“There may be a feeling out there that we don’t have players as good as what we had, but I don’t buy into that. I wouldn’t have gotten involved if we didn’t have good hurlers.
“Everyone’s on a short leash now, but at the same time the players put in a huge effort. We can’t fault their effort or desire to play. With the exception of Pa O’Callaghan, who was unavailable at the start of the year, I don’t think there’s anyone out there that people can say, ‘he should be on the panel’.
“The game has moved on a small bit from where we were — looking at the club game in Cork, and I’ve been involved with Sars there for the last few years, the standard isn’t as high as it should be.
“We’re not playing championship matches regularly enough, there isn’t a real aggressive side to the matches — and maybe that suited us with Sars, because people would have said we had nice hurlers — but I think we’re not playing enough honest-to-God championship matches within the county.
“Looking at Sars, they have one match played and if Cork progress they probably won’t play again until August. And we want Cork to progress, which would be great, but the knock-on is that it postpones games.
“Other counties are going with a group format in their championship and I think that would help. There’s a lot of work going on and good players are coming through, but the only way they’ll develop — the only way they’ll stay involved in hurling — is if they get regular championship games.”
Cork must deal with the expectation of a home crowd tonight — as well as the memory of a ten-point defeat by Dublin in the league earlier this year. “From our perspective we’d be saying that the league didn’t matter, but if we’d beaten Dublin you’d be saying the league does matter,” says Ryan.
“Dublin are a very good side — their first half against Kilkenny was very good, even if Kilkenny got a bit of a run on them at the start of the second half, which Kilkenny have been doing to teams for years, and they fell away a bit. Even for that game, though, they were missing a couple of their better players...
“For us, you could talk about performances and so on, but we just have to get a win on Saturday night, that’s all. The Cork public will be expecting a win, even though it’s a 50-50 game. The public will expect to win — and we’ll be expecting to win as well, but that can only happen if we bring the workrate and the physicality and the desire to it.
“We feel our lads have the hurling and the fitness but we need to match Dublin and get past them. What we need is something like the Kilkenny league game in Páirc Uí Rinn, where there was a fantastic atmosphere and a good performance. There’s an onus on us all, players and management, to replicate that.
“Tonight there might be a return to a more traditional way of playing. We’re on our home patch and we’ll have to give the crowd something to shout about straight off.”
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