Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald made the point after their Munster championship clash with Waterford that one defeat “doesn’t make you a bad team”.
By the same token, argues Cork selector Pat Ryan, one win doesn’t mean the slate is wiped clean and all problems are resolved.
Ryan describes the Cork dressing room as a picture of relief after the win over Dublin last Saturday evening. And understandably so. Despite preserving their Division 1 status at the expense of Galway in Pearse Stadium back in early April, there wasn’t a whole pile to take from a spring campaign where they lost five on the bounce. Throw in their Thurles no-show in the Munster quarter-final and it quickly becomes apparent how important last Saturday’s victory was.
“There was relief, of course, at having won a championship game,” said the Cork hurling selector. “We put a lot into the year, put a lot of time into a lot of different things and anytime you win a championship match, you are delighted. It gave us an opportunity to get back on the horse. We have a bit of momentum now going into this weekend. We trained on Tuesday night and fellas had a good pep in their step.”
Mind you, he was quick to offer a smidgen of reality.
“Look, we are under no illusions that just because we beat Dublin on Saturday night that everything is rosy in the garden. Obviously, you need to be going out, performing against Wexford and making sure we get a win.
“Against Tipperary, we didn’t work as hard as we could and we didn’t play for each other as much as we could. On Saturday night, we definitely did that.
“Looking back on Saturday’s video, though, there were loads of examples of us not doing the right thing and maybe we didn’t make the right decision on the line, at times, either.”
Most prominent on their Páirc Uí Rinn report card was their poor use of possession, particularly when attempting to pick out Cadogan, Horgan and Lehane inside. Cork’s tally of 15 wides is evidence aplenty that on several occasions the Cork midfield and half-backs were unsuccessful in finding either the target or their target men.
“You try to cut them up a bit and get them playing a certain system. We did some of that on Saturday night, but people can see that we had a lot of frees, there were a lot of wides, we weren’t giving the ball into our full-forward line early enough and we weren’t always taking the right option. There was too much of that from our side.
“What we are looking at is getting as much ball into the inside forwards as possible because if you can get enough ball in there, backlines aren’t going to hold up all the time. The inside lads are going to win their fair share and they will get the scores.
“What we would have been disappointed with against Dublin is that early in the match we had five or six opportunities we wasted. We didn’t feed the ball into the lads to get them on the ball early.
“It was 18 minutes in before Alan Cadogan actually touched the ball. It wasn’t that his man was winning early ball. He didn’t touch the ball either during those first 18 minutes. We just weren’t getting it in and if you are in there, you start to get a little anxious.”
Throughout the league and in the wake of that Munster championship defeat to Tipperary, questions were raised regarding the strength of the Cork rearguard.
Ryan was extremely pleased with the defence’s performance against Dublin.
“I thought lads, when we needed to in the second half, worked hard and used the ball well. Conor O’Sullivan worked well. Fellas made themselves available. Mark Ellis was excellent in a role that he wouldn’t be accustomed to. We know Mark as a half-back, but he put in a great shift for the team inside at corner-back. At the end of the day, you have to defend as a team and attack as a team. In fairness, we gave away a bad goal.
“Before they had a man sent off, they had no shot on goal for 30 minutes. In the league, they had three goals in eight minutes. In the last couple of years, we have been shipping a lot of goals. In the last three games we have played, we have conceded only one goal. Obviously, it is somewhere we need to be starting from.”
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