Saturday 21 April 2018

Eoin Liston: Cork dog will eventually bite back and it could be Sunday

Brian Hurley
Brian Hurley
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Cork football reminds me a little bit of that old nursery rhyme - 'There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good and when she was bad, she was horrid.'

They have the players and when things click for them they can be a joy to watch and are capable of beating any team in the country.

Though, as we all know, when things go wrong they can be awful, as we saw against Dublin in the knockout stages of league over the last two seasons and in last year's Munster final against Kerry, when they were just blown away.

They are very much second-class citizens in terms of the affection of Cork supporters and the hurlers will always be number one, even if they're bringing home Sam Maguire.

Last year there was a function in the Riverside Hotel in Douglas for the 25th anniversary of their 1989 and '90 All-Ireland wins. I was invited and went along out of respect for those two great teams.

Dr Con Murphy, the doctor to Cork teams for so many years, gave a speech and he mentioned that in his first three years in the role the hurlers won three All-Irelands. He used sit in the dugout beside Christy Ring and Ring would ask him, 'Are you still with the footballers?'. When Con said he was, Ring would just turn away and shake his head.


That tells you all you need to know and shows you just what Cork footballers are fighting against in their own county so it's a credit to them that they keep coming back year after year.

I liken the Kerry-Cork rivalry to Celtic-Rangers in terms of intensity, but the great thing about it is it only lasts for the 70 minutes of the match plus an hour or two either side of it.

I watched the Páidí ó Sé documentary on television earlier in the week and it reminded me of one thing he used say to me: "Those Cork supporters when they win, they'd stick a red and white flag up your arse if they thought they'd get away with it!" I remember myself and Ogie Moran went into Billy Morgan's bar before the 1993 Munster final along with Dr Con and Shea Fahy. We had just settled in with a drink when Billy marched over to us and ordered us out.

He wouldn't let us stay and that just gives you an idea of the rivalry that's there. And despite that, as soon as I walked into the room for the function in Douglas last year, the first man up to give me a hug was Billy himself!

Cork have had the skills and individual players to do well, but they have been tactically very naive. No doubt about it, the management were found out last year in the Munster final against Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

They ran through Kerry in the league and they thought they'd be able to do the same thing in the championship. They got badly outsmarted, with Kerry bringing their half-forwards back, blocking up that space. Declan O'Sullivan was left in space on his own up front and he gave an exhibition. Kerry had 25 attacks and 13 scores in the first half alone. In contrast, Cork managed 25 attacks in the whole match.

Surely to God Cork will have their homework done this time around and this is why I am a bit fearful heading into this match.

I'm a bit like the schoolboy that walks past the gate on the way to school every morning and pokes the dog that's in the garden behind it. It's all a laugh for him, but behind it all he's worried that the dog will get out one day and bite back.

Cork have been so maligned by their own and around the country that there is bound to be a reaction.


Pat Flanagan is working with them now so there will be no question about their fitness. They finished top of the league after having to travel to Ulster four times and they showed that they had learned lessons when they beat Kerry on March 8.

I still have my notes from that game and they say that they were very hard, aggressive, Colm O'Neill and Brian Hurley (pictured left)caused havoc, they have good free-takers and they're playing smarter.

I watched Dublin against Kildare at the weekend and they appeared to have pressed the fast forward button; they were playing the game at such a pace and I haven't seen that injection from Kerry yet, which is a concern.

Also, Kerry's defence is a worry to me this year. In 2014, Kerry had one of the tightest defences in Division 1, but this year they conceded on average one point more a game while Dublin conceded four fewer and Cork two.

This is a huge game, no doubt about it.

For Kerry, winning and losing could be the difference between playing Dublin in an All-Ireland quarter-final at the beginning of August or the final at the end of September.

Irish Independent

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