Wherever else the Cork footballers may fall down this summer, fitness won’t be an issue.
Munster Senior Football Championship
WATERFORD V CORK
Saturday: Fraher Field, 7pm
Bet: Waterford 11/1 Cork 1/33 Draw 33/1
When management sat down at the end of last season to review the year, the GPS figures weren’t kind.
Cork simply were not at the races when it came to physical fitness, when it came to making the hard yards. It just wasn’t in the legs.
Righting that wrong has been top of the agenda this year and Peadar Healy admits the team put down several blocks of heavy training — specifically orientated around physical fitness — during their league campaign.
He’s certainly not using this as an excuse for their indifferent spring campaign and failure to garner promotion from Division 2, but he wants it on the record that this group has put in the necessary graft to make sure no team outlasts them during Championship 2017.
“When we did the review at the end of last year, we found we were so far back in terms of fitness levels compared with other teams,” said Healy.
“The fitness levels were way, way down in the championship compared to other counties. We were nowhere near Dublin, Kerry, or Mayo.
“We have big blocks of hard training put in, hard running up and down the pitch.
“Even when the lads went back to their clubs for the county championship, they trained with us as well. So the boys have put in a lot of hard work on this.”
The Rebels begin their championship this Saturday evening in Dungarvan, only the second time in the past six years that Cork have played championship in May and the first occasion since 2013 that they’ve had to negotiate a provincial quarter-final.
The manager says the earlier start is what they wanted.
“For us, it is beneficial to be coming in early. I do think we will be better off by getting these games in. You have the likes of Dublin and Kerry who have only come back training on Monday week last.
“For us and where we are at the moment, we need to get a few games under our belt. I was watching Waterford against Tipperary last year in the Munster championship and Tipperary did not pull away until the last 10 minutes.
"The two O’Gormans there in the full-back line would make any team in Munster. Paul Whyte, the captain, he will lead that side well,” Healy said of a Déise team chasing a first provincial championship victory since 2010.
“They played London the weekend before last in a challenge and gave them a good hammering. You’d have to be on your guard going down there, especially for the first round of the championship where everyone is cold, trying to find form and trying to get momentum.”
Cork will be expected to return home with a semi-final spot secured, but where the summer takes them thereafter is anyone’s guess.
A minimum for Healy is that their fluctuating form evens out.
That their league sequence read draw-loss-win-loss-draw-win-draw serves as just the latest example of this team’s inability to string together a couple of positive results, or even a couple of decent performances.
“You wouldn’t be happy with the way the league went, especially the three draws and two losses,” said Healy.
“We weren’t consistent enough. The three draws were three games we should have won. The first two teams we played wound up in the final. The Galway game was one we should have won.
"It was the same against Meath and Down. Ten points could have taken us into the final. We just weren’t consistent enough in the league. We just need to get out there and win games.
“Go on a run is the big thing. The lads are putting in a savage effort. The talent is there. The trick is to now start getting results.”
Of the team to face Waterford, Healy said all but one or two positions are nailed down. Midfield is giving most headaches, with Aidan Walsh, Alan O’Connor, Ian Maguire, and Ruairi Deane vying for selection.
Walsh is aiming to make his first championship start for the Rebel footballers since the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo.
Deane started all seven league games at midfield, Walsh started four, and Maguire started two, although the latter did line out at wing-forward on two further occasions. O’Connor made his return for the final game against Down.
“Midfield is very, very competitive. Ruairi had a good league campaign, but the boys are really stepping it up, Aidan Walsh especially, and Ian and Alan.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved