Kevin Hennessy has branded the attitude of the Cork team in Sunday’s nine-point defeat as the worst he has seen.
The three-time All-Ireland winner can hardly remember leaving Semple Stadium as a supporter so disconsolate with the abjectness of the county’s performance, describing them as “lambs to the slaughter”.
From the get-go, Hennessy was taken aback by the lack of cut and thrust from Cork when Tipperary were in possession.
“There was no bit of fire. We didn’t give them a clatter, really, not a decent one. We were lacking and there were fellas out there who were going through the motions.
“I was very disappointed with the attitude; I thought the attitude was the worst I’ve ever seen. We had bad days, a lot of them, but by God we tried for every ball.
“You must go for the 70/30 ball against you, try to get there instead of stopping, giving them another 10 yards and letting them pick out their man up front.
“We were always told you play with six forwards and 15 backs. It was as vital for the corner forward block down the corner back as the other way around. Alan Cadogan did his best, in fairness to him, but he was fighting a lone battle.
“It wasn’t the forwards’ fault that the ball wasn’t going their way but they had to defend too.”
Dismissing the first-half yellow cards for three players on each side for off-the-ball incidents, Hennessy didn’t expect Cork to resort to violence but couldn’t understand how unwilling players were to question Tipperary in the physical stakes.
“It was well known all week that we were going to play the sweeper system and who was going to play the sweeper (William Egan). Tipperary just stood back and kicked our backsides out of the park. It was one of the worst days I’ve left Thurles. I wouldn’t mind at all if there was a bit of fight in them but there was no fight. We were like lambs to the slaughter because our attitude was shocking from the start.
“Now, it’s hard to be critical of any player because I was there myself and I know what it is like. But it’s the way they went about it.
“Normally, there would be firebrand stuff between Tipperary and Cork. You’d get a lash and you’d give it back. I’m not saying to go and be dirty but stand up for ourselves and don’t get pushed around. Holding jerseys, holding hurleys — that’s Mickey Mouse stuff.”
Cork’s decision to walk out onto the field at the outset rather than run sent out the wrong signal to Hennessy and, he felt, the rest of supporters in Thurles. “I did a thing with Marty Morrissey, Liam Sheedy, Eoin Kelly, and Dr Con Murphy out in Douglas on Friday and I gave Cork a great chance because we love playing Tipp in Thurles. Somebody told them to walk out onto the pitch. Normally, you wouldn’t do that. They gave the impression to the crowd that they were casual and laid-back and they played that way for the 70 minutes.
“Try anything once. If they won by five points people would have said they showed their intent from the start but during the first half I was looking at my own club players. Conor (Lehane) is one of our marquee forwards but I think he touched the ball for the first time after 19 minutes. Our forwards didn’t know where they were playing because of the sweeper. We were hitting the ball from our man to their man and that was it. Seamus Harnedy is a very good player but he was starved of ball.” Cork hope to save their season starting on July 2 when they line out again for their first round qualifier. By that time, Hennessy hopes they consign their sweeper tactic to the bin. He points out it was tried 30 years ago and had minimal success then.
“There was very little contesting of the ball in the air. The sweeper system has the game ruined. Going back to the ’86 All-Ireland final, Galway had beaten Kilkenny playing a sweeper in the semi-final. We thought there was no way they would try it again but they did and Johnny Crowley got the man of the match. He was the corner-back clearing the ball all day and he got tired from hitting it.
“The sweeper system was there at that time but it doesn’t work anymore.
“Play 15 on 15 and take your chances.
“I think Cork were afraid of the Tipp full-forward line but whether or not there was a sweeper in front of them they played well. Our backs should be good enough. If you’re good to play inter-county, you should be good enough and that’s it.”
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