Monday 16 October 2017

'We have a lot to improve on' - Jimmy Barry-Murphy

Barry-Murphy hails players' spirit in face of Clare onslaught and believes that draw was a 'fair result'

Pa Cronin's strike whistles towards the top corner of the net moments before Cork's third goal
Pa Cronin's strike whistles towards the top corner of the net moments before Cork's third goal
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JIMMY Barry-Murphy emerges from the tornado with not a hair out of place, his house intact. He sits down, looks around. "Howya lads?"

His team put him through the wringer, took him out and plunged him back in again but there is a Zen-like aura to him that perhaps only comes when you've been involved in 10 senior All-Irelands.

In contrast, his opposite number is a whirlwind. Davy Fitzgerald is a ball of energy in the post-match press conference, brimming with smart asides and hinting at a fury that lies just below the surface.

However, when Barry-Murphy is asked about those moments that turned the game in Clare's favour, like the amount of additional time afforded to get an equaliser, he counters that referee Brian Gavin had been kind to Cork at other times. When he was asked about the distance Patrick Kelly had come to save Anthony Nash's first-half free, he asserts that the Offaly referee had had an excellent game.

Neatly sidestepped, move on. His side might have just been denied an All-Ireland title by a last-ditch point from a corner-back deep into injury-time, but Barry-Murphy admitted Cork had ridden their luck to be in that position at all.

"It was like the Dublin game, when you are involved in it, it's very hard to be on the sideline," he said. "I thought it was a great occasion, a great match, some great scores from both sides and Clare were brilliant on the day.

"I'd have to be honest and say it's a fair result. It's a fair result from our point of view because they might have edged it probably. But our lads showed great character when they looked to be struggling in a lot of places, the commitment they showed and the spirit they showed, I am very proud of that.

"I thought at one stage when they were four points ahead with 10 minutes to go we were struggling to get the ball down the field and Clare were playing with great enthusiasm, great spirit and there was great pace to their game. They are a credit to their manager, in fairness to them."

His manager might be the ultimate diplomat, but Cork captain Patrick Cronin was a little more forthright in his opinions, especially when it was put to him that Cork's performance might not have been up to their usual standards and that nerves might have affected them.

"We were up by a point, boy," he said. "We were two seconds away from winning an All-Ireland, so I don't know what you're all going on about.

"We got three goals. You're criticising us all year for not getting goals and then we get three and then they are better than us. What are you on about, like?"

Despite his bullishness about the performance, the centre half-forward admitted that he felt that the game was slipping away when Clare went five points up with 15 minutes to go, but he paid tribute to his team-mates for the way they responded.

"About 15, 20 minutes to go I thought it was going to be tough enough for us, you know? They were really on top at the time," he said. "But, look, we have great fight in us all year, we pulled it back and they were lucky to draw in the end really."

While Cork opted not to complain about the additional time played by Gavin, there was a feeling among the players that they should have closed it out.

"With a minute to go the game is never over until the final whistle is blown. It's never up really. I suppose we thought with the two minutes up we thought the game was over, but the referee played another half a minute," midfielder Daniel Kearney said.

"We thought the right man had the ball when he got it – a corner-back – but in fairness to him it was an unbelievable score."

How the teams handle the next 19 days will be the key to how the replay goes as they look to reach that peak once again and Kearney admitted that it would be a tough task for the Rebels to respond.

"It's a difficult situation because you're building up to a high for the past three weeks. There's no outcome to it and that's mentally tough to take. We just have to go back and rebuild again. Fingers crossed.

"We have a lot to improve on. Not too much hurling-wise, just the basics of aggression and being hardier on the ball in the rucks and getting over the ball better."

His manager agreed, saying: "There are lots of places we need to improve. Players know that themselves, Clare will be looking themselves in the same situation.

"It's a difficult situation, a three-week break is unusual in itself, from that point of view it's new territory for me. We just have to regroup, analyse it and see where we can improve."

He hasn't done it before, but the impression is that Barry-Murphy will take it in his stride, not a bother.

Irish Independent

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