Thursday 18 July 2019

Trench warfare didn't suit the Rebels

Páirc Uí Chaoimh's pitch woes badly effected the hurlers on Sunday afternoon

A young player from Douglas GAA watches as a groundsman attempts to repair divots on the pitch at half time during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Round 2 match between Cork and Kildare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
A young player from Douglas GAA watches as a groundsman attempts to repair divots on the pitch at half time during the Allianz Football League Division 2 Round 2 match between Cork and Kildare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Noel Horgan

So where to begin from last Sunday? Well, both Cork's hurlers and footballers fell afoul of their respective opposition and their own facilities in what was a very poor day for the GAA on Leeside.

After the footballers cut the pitch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh to ribbons it was the turn of the hurlers to take on Wexford to see if they could show the Leinster side and the paltry 6,827 attendance just what they are about.

After failing to see off Kilkenny the previous week Cork again struggled at the back and in particular straight in front of the sticks as the full-back line again struggled at times to deal with what in reality wasn't the most potent of attacks.

In the middle of the defence it must be said that Newtownshandrum's Tim O'Mahony was the star of the show for Cork and really must be given more time to bed into a position that looks like a perfect fit for him. O'Mahony's all round play, as well as his two points from distance, mark him down as a player that could well have a long term future with Cork.

Mark Coleman's return was solid without being exciting while on the other side Christopher Joyce looked well up for this one after a tough day at the office in Nowlan Park the previous week.

In the middle, the return of Bill Cooper paid some dividends while Mallow's Cormac Murphy did really well in the middle for the first half, but struggled to get anything like the same grip on the game in the second period.

Many Cork watchers were looking forward to seeing Alan Cadogan back in the corner alongside Aidan Walsh and Patrick Horgan, but the Douglas man was again ruled out late-on with a hand injury, something that all hope will be resolved for the next day against Clare.

Horgan seemed to be a little off colour himself striking a couple of wides that he would normally bag in his sleep while Walsh was probably Cork's best player with four really good points - not bad for a man that has had limited hurling in recent times.

So if most of the players did well enough where did it all go wrong for the home side? Well, to be clear, Cork's hurlers didn't lose just because of the pitch on Sunday, but it did have a significant influence on the final score-line as Cork's game really isn't suited to pitches like the one on offer last weekend.

Cork need good ground, hard ground, fast ground and while that is not always available, particularly at this time of the year, it should be somewhere close, particularly at home where you expect things to be setup to suit the home side.

No matter what field or outdoor sport you consider it is recognised that a significant element of home advantage is that the behind the scenes people liaise with the teams' management to produce a product that suits the home team.

Think of the Ryder Cup, any English Premiership side, Munster rugby or indeed the Dublin footballers - they all get to show their wares on grass that is prepared to suit their needs.

That is why the post-match statement that the pitch was the same for both sides really doesn't wash. If Wexford last Sunday were to choose a pitch to play on they may not have chosen the near bog-like conditions that they got, but if you had asked Davy Fitzgerald what kind of a field he would like to see Cork have to play on he might well have chosen the pitch they got.

Before everyone gets on their high horse to slam the powers that be in Cork GAA it is important to remember that Croke Park had its fair share of pitch issues in the early days after redevelopment while places as famous as Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium and even the Aviva in Dublin didn't avoid what many consider to be the embarrassment of a poor surface - that said, most of those facilities had huge resources from which to put the issue right while in Cork money seems to be getting tighter and tighter for a complex that still hasn't produced a final cost.

The decision to move to Páirc Uí Rinn for the game against Clare may well be seen as a slight embarrassment for the County Board, but the decision really was a no-brainer - the pitch by the Lee was not only inadequate but also dangerous and Cork are very familiar with the backup ground and more importantly its pitch.

Cork will hope to have the two Cadogans back the next day as well as some of the Fitzgibbon players so expect to see some improvements all over the pitch but now would not be the right time to throw the baby out with the bath water, making a raft of changes for the sake of it.

John Meyler needs to get his best 25 players on point, hungry for action and bang in form and that can only happen by getting a winning mentality into the side but he must not adopt change for the sake of change.

O'Mahony should be left at centre back for the rest of the league to give the young north Cork star a real chance to show his wares. Murphy has to be retained in the middle to again prove he is worth a spot and up front Aidan Walsh must be given more time - what was the point of bringing back the latter pairing if they weren't to get the playing time required.

Even though we are only in early February this is a big rest week for Cork.