Poor work-rate at the root of Rebels' defeats - McGrath
Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30
Seanie McGrath makes the qualification himself. As a player, he laughed, he was never renowned for his tackling. So it's not an area he's entirely comfortable dissecting.
But in the modern game the statistics paint a picture that Cork can take an accurate impression from.
By their estimation their tackle-count dipped to around 41 in the recent National League final defeat to Waterford, a real red-light prompt. Against Dublin in the previous game, it had touched the low 80s.The ballpark figure is around 70.
It tells its own story, informs them of the first obvious area of improvement ahead of Sunday's Munster semi-final re-match.
"There is a correlation between when our work-rate and intensity drops and our performance," McGrath pointed out.
"Counties like Kilkenny who have been successful can probably afford to get away with a lower tackle-count because they have always had exceptional players who could change a game. We haven't had players who have won titles and have had that nous or know-how.
"So when our tackle-count is down, when our intensity is down, it is almost is directly proportionate to a poor performance," said the 1999 All-Ireland medal winner.
"When we met almost two months later and looked at the stats for the Tipperary game, it was frightening to see how many puck-outs we lost," he reflected. "We looked at our tackle-count and turnovers. It was the lowest of the year. So we could see a direct relation.
"Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) has always been saying to our guys that even though it's a proud, strong county, if we are not at high-octane 100 per cent, we are a very mediocre side."
McGrath admitted Cork had no "bite" against a "very smart" Waterford.
"It wasn't all about extra men back. They used the ball so intelligently, they got scores as well. Austin Gleeson's point was worth maybe three or four points when he ran down the line because you could feel the crowd erupting.
"There was 17 or 18,000 at it but at the time it felt like it was 50,000 because it was a real crowd-lifting score.
"It's a huge worry and it's something we'll focus on the next day. We might be doing a bit more match stuff in training and leaving the referee alone with no frees for a couple of minutes, just really get some bite back in our play."
Cork have taken measures to arrest their 'defender drain' after so many departures and injuries and Brian Murphy's surprise retirement reversal has been a lift.
But McGrath also feels there can be individual improvement between the games.
"Fellas hadn't prepared as well as they could have prepared for it," he said.
"As a group we felt that we had the group prepared as well as they could but individually fellas know themselves. I'd say guys were panting for a bit of breath."
Cork have now finished their last two inter-county competitions with double-digits defeats to Tipperary and Waterford and McGrath is pragmatic enough to acknowledge that such a sequence is a setback.
"What's even more worrying is that we never saw them coming," he acknowleged.
"Sometimes coming into a game you might sense that fellas aren't going well, that they are just off the ball a little.
"But we played a practice game the Tuesday week before we played Tipperary and we had to stop the game we were going so well.
"Fellas were bursting out of their skins. They were hopping.
"Sometimes that's worse than if you had gone into the game feeling that you were up against it or that you weren't going at full tilt. But we have to address that now as management."