Monday 22 July 2019

Inconsistency is our Achilles heel

SHC: Cork have a wonderful side - when they're on song - but getting there consistently is a major issue

Anthony Nash of Cork saves a shot on goal by Shane O’Donnell of Clare during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Clare and Cork at Cusack Park in Ennis
Anthony Nash of Cork saves a shot on goal by Shane O’Donnell of Clare during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Clare and Cork at Cusack Park in Ennis

Diarmuid Sheehan

There are a whole host of reasons why Cork failed to make it to the provincial final on Sunday and first on the list is consistency.

Cork yet again showed that consistency is their Achilles heel. It is the thing that separates them from the top of the pile. It is the one thing that sows the seeds of doubt in what is a brilliant set of hurlers.

Cork went to Ennis last weekend knowing that a win gets them into the show-piece game while anything else leaves it in the lap of the gods, or in this case in Thurles where Tipperary and Limerick were playing.

I for one, stuck my head above the parapet last week and said that Cork would win, giving a spread of about five points between the sides and with the benefit of hindsight I was clearly wrong. Well, on this day I was wrong, but not about the gap between these two sides.

Cork played poorly, really poorly in fact, with all of seven or eight players playing well below their own high standards and the standards set for them by the management team and they still only lost by five, and three of those came in added time.

Cork are, regardless of the result in Clare a better side than Clare and, while the result went against them the Rebels, are still in the competition, and deservedly so.

At the back the good old problems re-emerged with defenders unable to deal with physical, rampaging forwards that will twist and turn and ultimately go straight through you if they get the chance.

John Conlon was a case in point on Sunday. He gave Eoin Cadogan a torrid time in the first half and was equally as dangerous in the second period with Stephen McDonnell and Damien Cahalane on the pitch.

At the half-back line Mark Coleman was terrific but even he had some wild efforts at the posts - shots that would normally sail straight over the black spot.

In the middle Cork were good enough, while in the full-forward line things weren't bad at all with Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan again showing their threat throughout.

In the half forward line, like the full back line, Cork struggled. Seamus Harnedy, Daniel Kearney and Luke Meade were on the back foot all game and other than the odd piece of magic, didn't have the impact required.

Cork's inconsistency is troubling, frustrating and likely will result in a pre-mature ending to their campaign sooner rather than later - that is unless they can get a handle on it and perhaps now is the best time for that to happen.

Everyone loves a Munster Hurling Final and everyone wants their team to be in it but perhaps Sunday was really a blessing in disguise. Perhaps it is the best thing that could happen.

Of course getting the opportunity to win three titles in a row is seen as a good thing but for Cork, winning the last two Munster's hasn't exactly done the men in red any favours.

Perhaps Cork could now do with a run through the backdoor with a potential clash against Westmeath likely to be first up. A win there might well see Cork take on Wexford, but again, that is not a challenge you should fear if you have designs on the All Ireland title. Looking at Sunday there were more reasons than just inconsistency for the loss with Passion and home advantage also playing significant roles.

Of course one should never really question the passion of any player and on this day you couldn't fault any of the Cork players for the level of commitment they showed in a game that really did have it all.

Clare on the other hand had passion and grit and that backs to the wall attitude from the first to the final whistle that you could almost reach out and touch.

That passion seemed to be mixed in with hurt and anger and all that came out from a side that have been heavily criticised in recent weeks. Cork could match Clare in many areas but on this day they just couldn't match their passion.

Home advantage was another major reason for the result. At the final whistle John Meyler spoke about the importance of home advantage and the importance of making sure you have your vital (qualifying) game at home and on this day that advantage went to Clare.

Cusack Park was rocking in the sunshine and also in the rain and that seemed to keep Clare at a level they didn't reach in the championship to that point.

Cork were away and for long periods they looked like the away side looking to just trying to manage the wave that was carrying their opponents ultimately to victory.

What will Cork do from here? Well, hard to tell really. They will likely go out and put a hefty score on the next side they meet but in reality that will just further the narrative that says they can't put a series of good performances together.

Cork need to build back up to the level required and stay there and if they fail once more this season to attain that goal they will be out and wouldn't that be a pretty poor return for a side that I believe, on their day, are one of the top two in the land.