CORK football selector Terry O’Neill has defended their selection policy in this season’s All-Ireland championship and cites the strength of Cork’spersonnel reserves as a crucial factor in carrying them to Sunday’s All-Ireland decider.
“Today if you don’t have strong options in your subs you’re at nothing,” he said. “Tipperary proved that in the All-Ireland hurling final when they had the players to bring off the bench to contribute to the scoreboard and win the game. Our semi-final win over Dublin was similar in that regard.
“You can be ridiculed for not starting certain fellas in a game but there’s always a genuine reason for that. A lot of people who criticise never see the team training, so surely themanager and backroom setup must have a better idea since they’re working with the team the whole time.
“Look at Nicholas Murphy as an example. He’s missed nearly seven weeks of training this year. The bottom line is at this stage of his career, he can’t play 70 minutes at the intensity intercounty football is played at, having missed so much training in a season.”
O’Neill has also hit back at the criticism heaped upon the team’sponderous style of attacking in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Dublin last month and claims the defensive setup of Pat Gilroy’s side hindered their attempts to play direct ball.
“We’ve been given a lot of stick for not playing the ball in direct in the Dublin match. But we studied them a lot and they essentially play a 3-4-4-3 formation. You can look at the videos of it and if ball was kicked in, it was going to one Cork forward marked by at least two Dublin players. That was the way they set their stall. I felt it took our players a while to get to grips with the crowd as well that day.”
O’Neill also identifies the team’s trips to Ulster in this spring’s National League to face Monaghan, Tyrone and Derry as critical in enabling them to hone an ability to eke out results in this summer’s championship.
“Those matches up North gave us great confidence as the year went on. The tone was set early on winning against Monaghan up in Scotstown when we weren’t long back fromholidays in Thailand and it was a place we’d lost heavily the year before. Derry was another good tight win and while we lost our other league match up in Omagh against Tyrone, we played some of our best football this year that night. But for conceding some soft goals, we’d have won that game and Tyrone themselves recognised that afterwards. The benefits of those games have been seen as the year has gone on in my view.
“Cork traditionally didn’t do well on the road during the league but this year we attempted to improve that. It meant in the qualifiers when we went to Wexford Park and the Gaelic Grounds, we were better prepared for it."
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