Eoin Liston: Rebels' dual ambitions could give both of their managers big headache
Published 21/06/2014 | 02:30
I look at Cork and I see so many positives. Pace, power, skill, strength in depth and a forward line that is potentially devastating.
They are most people's second favourites after Dublin, and I think they are value for that. However, while they are not perfect in terms of their set-up or personnel, I believe their biggest problem could lie elsewhere.
I stand to be proven wrong, but in a county like Cork, with All-Ireland aspirations in both codes, the place for the dual player must surely be questioned. So far they have managed divided commitments well, but it's a long summer ahead.
Take Clare for example. The likes of the Collins' brothers are involved with hurling and football. Winning the All-Ireland last year can provide an invaluable lift to the football set-up.
A football team like Clare, who aren't expected to feature late in the championship, can tap into that experience and use it to improve in every aspect from training to match-day preparation.
But if there is a clash in fixtures, the Clare dual players will be with Davy Fitzgerald and the hurlers. Can the same be said for Aidan Walsh, Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan?
If they decide to choose hurling over football, what will the other members of Brian Cuthbert's squad think when they come back in for training?
It can be harmful to team spirit. Aside from that, the physical demands on the players themselves and the intensity they will be operating at all summer is phenomenal. When will they have their down time?
To be fair, Cuthbert is someone who I admire greatly. He's been involved in Cork underage and development squads for years and was also part of Conor Counihan's set-up. He'll know the players better than anyone and crucially, having been a dual player himself, he'll be working with Jimmy Barry-Murphy to help the lads through their schedule.
However, come Munster final time, or the All-Ireland quarter and semi-final stages, and human nature will mean both managers will want what's best for their team and something will have to give.
For now though, the footballers are in good shape. The collapse in the league semi-final with Dublin can be used as an advantage and studied intensely to ensure the same thing doesn't happen again. A case in point is when the positions were reversed in the 2011 final. Pat Gilroy's side fell to pieces and allowed Cork back into a game in which they trailed by eight points after 40 minutes.
A few months later, though, Dublin were walking up the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the Sam Maguire.
What Cork have is a superb mix in the forward line. Mark Collins and Paul Kerrigan provide the pace and guile while Barry O'Driscoll, a player I've long admired, is very clever with the ability to kick points from distance.
Inside, Daniel Goulding, Brian Hurley and John Hayes have goals written all over them. Then they have the genius of Colm O'Neill to come into the mix. What's needed now is for them to really show as a unit that they are on the same wave length.
The half-back line of James Loughrey, Paddy Kelly and John O'Rourke can be got at I feel. Not because of individual quality, but due to the midfield in front of them not adding enough protection.
The middle third is the area where Cork must nail down some consistency in both selection and form.
Kerry are also looking for that consistency. The team sheet for the clash with Clare has many supporters anxious. No longer are the names of Tomás ó Sé, Colm Cooper or Paul Galvin jumping off the page and James O'Donoghue is out injured.
But this is the perfect chance for new stars to emerge and for them to grow into household names themselves.
Dingle cousins Michael and Paul Geaney, Brian Kelly, Paul Murphy and Stephen O'Brien are all going to be under the spotlight and the manner of defeats to Cork and Derry in the league has increased the pressure.
There's no hiding place in the championship but I have immense faith in Eamonn Fitzmaurice. He's another year into his tenure and his defensive system should be more sophisticated.
Make no mistake, their clash with Clare is no foregone conclusion. The Banner have two matches behind them and have nothing to lose. If they get a good start then the younger Kerry players may begin to doubt themselves.
Kerry will win I feel, but it's the performance which will be all important. It could be the start for a new team of superstars.
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