Mark Collins: Three trips north to Ulster have bonded Cork

Mark Collins has attributed the tighter bond in the Cork camp to their three trips to Ulster this spring.

Their away record reads two wins and a narrow defeat with one final journey to come, which will be the longest when they face Derry in Owenbeg next month.

After such upheaval in the panel last year, where there were mass retirements, Collins feels the bus rides and overnight stays in their Enniskillen base have strengthened the morale within the group.

Collins felt Sunday’s win over Tyrone was possibly their best win yet in this league campaign. “We’re delighted with it. Afterwards, we were saying it showed we are a close-knit bunch. We had four or five subs that came on and made a massive impact.

“We have been working on keeping as close as we can and these trips up north have helped that and it showed there in the end when we needed to knuckle down and the pressure was on and they got vital scores for us.

“This has been a real good trip and it makes for a short trip home. We’re enjoying these trips away. We’re getting on super and it’s great bonding for us.

“There were a lot of young fellas who came into the panel last year and there was a massive change. We had seven or eight retirements but we’ve tried to come closer this year and I think it’s showing. Bringing on the experience from the bench was great and they show the rest of us the calmness needed to tag on the scores when they were needed.”

For the third time in Ulster, Cork finished strongly as they kept Tyrone to just four frees in the second-half while stringing seven points themselves without reply. Collins is buoyed by the resolve there showing and a semi-final spot is within touching distance now but he insists the players will be remaining cool.

“We’ve plenty of belief in ourselves but we’re not going to lose the run of ourselves. We know we were in a very similar position last year and come the summer things didn’t go quite right for us so we’ll just keep the heads for the time being. We still have a lot of work to do.

“We conceded two sloppy goals and that’s what we’re trying to stop, leaving too much space at the back. We’ve a lot of tweaking to do and hopefully come the summer we’ll be right.”

Cork might be sitting pretty perched on the top of Division 1 with the same points tally (eight) as they did last year. However, their victories have come by way of less cavalier performances against tougher opposition.

“The way things have gone in football it has changed and all the top teams have to become more defensively aware,” says Collins. “Even the best free-flowing teams like Dublin and Kerry are probably going more defensive. We know ourselves to have a chance come July and if you want to get to September you have to be more defensively aware.”


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