Saturday 22 October 2016

Cyril Farrell: Season-defining qualifiers to test teams' genuine resolve

Cyril Farrell

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

There’s plenty of talent at the disposal of Jimmy Barry-Murphy in the Cork
team, however, there remains an absence of leaders
There’s plenty of talent at the disposal of Jimmy Barry-Murphy in the Cork team, however, there remains an absence of leaders

Talking about what's happening in Greece to a neighbour the other day, he remarked: "If you have no water to put in the kettle, you can't make tea."

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It was as instructive a comment as I've heard from the myriad of so-called experts.

It's equally applicable in the world of team management. Brian Whelahan takes Offaly to Ennis this evening knowing that their chances of prolonging the championship season are slim.

Every manager is judged on results, but what can Whelahan do with Offaly? It's a no-water, no-tea situation.

A senior manager can only deal with the players available to him and if the underage supply lines are poor - as has been the case in Offaly for quite some time - the knock-on effect is unavoidable.

The same applies to Jimmy Barry-Murphy in Cork. All the talk about how Cork can mushroom overnight was fine when their underage teams were doing well, but not anymore. The conveyor belt has stalled and managers have to make do with what's available.


Having said that, Cork have been hugely frustrating. They still have some exceptional hurlers - especially in attack - but they're not asserting themselves.

They rarely play well at the same time either. So they're often relying on one or two to carry the show, which is very frustrating for all concerned. It also makes you wonder how good Cork would be if they all fired together.

Their obsession levels remain questionable too. You often get the impression that they are hoping for things to happen, rather than making sure they do.

That's where leaders come in or - more accurately in Cork's case - don't. They need more 'dogs of war'.

This evening's game isn't just a season-definer, it will impact on the longer term too.

Beaten All-Ireland finalists in 2013 and Munster champions last summer, this was always going to be a big year for Cork, so if it were to end after two defeats by Waterford and one by Wexford, most of the good work of the past two years would be undone.

It's possible that the attack will spark, but with Shane O'Neill, Lorcán McLoughlin and Christopher Joyce missing from the defence, Cork are vulnerable.

Not even Kilkenny or Tipperary could afford to lose three first-choice defenders without feeling the loss and since Cork don't have as much strength-in-depth, the loss is even more acute.

In fact, it could prove fatal. Wexford were terrible against Kilkenny but there's more to them than that. They must show it now if they are to rescue the season. I think they'll win.

A home draw against Offaly provides Clare with the ideal opportunity for a successful relaunch after failing in Munster for a second successive year.

There's intense pressure on the Clare players and management to not only win this evening but to also get back to the levels of two years ago and see how far it takes them in the All-Ireland race.

Nothing can detract from their 2013 All-Ireland win but time and expectations move on.

Counties like Clare, Galway and Wexford, who haven't won that many All-Irelands, tend to get very impatient when the titles don't continue to roll in. Suddenly, they have 20,000 'experts', many of whom couldn't be bothered going to a league game, telling the camp where it's going wrong.

Davy Fitzgerald has taken his share of criticism over the past year, but the fact remains that it's less than two years since Clare won the All-Ireland. They can be top contenders again this year, starting this evening when they will be too good for Offaly.


Laois and Dublin share a common theme as they try to get rid of the sour taste left after big defeats by Galway. Dublin look to have enough to win this one.

Limerick, too, will get their All-Ireland plans back on track against Westmeath.

Galway v Kilkenny may be the glamour game of the weekend but the stakes are higher in the four qualifiers, where defeat brings the end of the season. That's as real and raw as it gets. It also adds greatly to the drama and tension at the various venues.

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