Early set-backs put Cork on the back foot right away against Tribesmen
Cork are out of the race for Liam MacCarthy again and few on Leeside will be happy about the way the season ended.
After fighting back from what looked like an irretrievable position (losing the first two games of the Munster Championship) Cork got through the provincial competition and into the qualifiers where they struggled but won against a game, but out-gunned, Antrim.
The next big game of the season was always likely to be tough and few would have argued with the fact that heading into the game with Galway this was really a 50/50 shot for the men in red and white.
Cork have shown in patches this year just what a fabulous/exciting side they can be – pushing past a highly fancied Waterford and serving up a bit of a lesson to the Old Enemy, Tipperary, but on Saturday last, we got to see the other side of the current Cork side – a lack of consistency that yet again cost the Rebels a chance at immortality.
From the off last Saturday Cork were on the back foot. An error by keeper Patrick Collins had them three down on 15 seconds and reeling. Just the start they didn’t want on such a big occasion.
Another disastrous error, this time from Seán O’Donoghue, gave Galway their second major and from a position of dominance on the pitch, Cork were beginning to feel the need to chase the game. And still only in the first 35.
Of course, Cork came fighting back but their accuracy in front of the posts left a lot to be desired, as did their option taking. Bad wides from distance, poor shots at goal and a bag of missed placed efforts blighted their first half.
With all the negativity surrounding Cork’s first half display dominating the post-match commentary, time should be taken to acknowledge the effort put in by some of Cork’s best players on the day – Damien Cahalane, Robbie O’Flynn and Darragh Fitzgibbon all showing superbly on the day.
Often seen as the scape-goat for all the defensive wrongs that Cork have, last Saturday Cahalane probably had one of his best game’s for his county – a huge point and dogged defending, Cahalane may have come of age as an inter-county hurler last weekend.
O’Flynn has been seen by many as the star of Cork’s championship efforts this campaign and yesterday was no exception as the winger landed some special efforts.
Fitzgibbon also showed well against Galway with some impressive runs and a trio of points – the Charleville man could also have bagged himself a goal, but when the chance came the strike just wasn’t what one would expect from a hurler of his ability.
All three have shown that Cork have a solid base to build on. Also the find of the year Ciaran Joyce was another to raise the spirits. Joyce is likely the answer to the ongoing question of who will be Cork’s centre-back going forward, and at 19 the young star may well have over a decade to impress in the number 6 jersey.
Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan did really well off the bench raising questions about why neither started, Cork seem to have fallen into the position where they now have a solid 20-24 players to pick from for every game.
What is most annoying from a Cork fan’s position is that on this day, a day when Cork came up short, Cork really were definitely the better side.
Cork had most of the ball, most of the chances, most of the territory, but ultimately most of the errors and unfortunately for the men in red it was the latter that would cost them dearly.
Cork looked edgy, nervous and less than decisive on the day (particularly in the first half) and let what to me looked like an average Galway side stay ahead in the game.
Having said all that, Cork never led this tie, in fact they never got the game back to parity during the almost 80 minutes of action and that comes down to their failings in front of the posts over the course of the match.
Manager Kieran Kingston will be under pressure after this and perhaps there are some questions to answer for the Tracton man, but chief among those questions shouldn’t be whether Patrick Horgan should have started or not.
There was a clamour from all sides leading into this game to leave the record scorer on the bench and use him as an impact sub. That seemed like the right thing to do coming in to the tie. Remember hindsight is a wonderful thing but not an attribute any manager has in spades.
Kingston also can’t be blamed for Cork’s lack of accuracy throughout the disappointing afternoon.
Kingston trains the team, gives them the tactics, picks the starting 15 and changes things up when they need to be changed but the manager can’t save an easy ball. He can’t take shots for the players and he can’t defend against advancing attackers. The players need to do that. The manager is powerless.
Kingston is a proud man, a committed man, a clever man so perhaps the man that has taken charge of five of the last seven championship campaigns is in the best position to know if the same side that has failed this time round has what it takes to claim national glory next year.
Only time will tell.