Saturday 20 January 2018

Peadar Healy no closer to figuring out the great Cork football puzzle

Cork's Peter Kelleher reacts after missing a goal-scoring chance against Roscommon. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cork's Peter Kelleher reacts after missing a goal-scoring chance against Roscommon. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In the concourse around the Pairc Ui Rinn dressing-rooms in the wake of one of the poorest performances by the Cork footballers in recent times, Peadar Healy and a handful of his players manfully face up to the microphones that await them.

The vocabulary they use is predictable but necessary. Ken O'Halloran had been beaten four times that day and he lays it out straight when he says it's "not good enough".

Healy offers similar sentiments when he agrees their performance against Roscommon was "unacceptable".

Colm O'Driscoll is blunt too. "If it didn't hurt, you're heart and soul isn't really in it," he says.

In three rounds of the league so far, Cork have displayed their full range. They were professional when seeing off an injury-hit Mayo on the opening day, at one stage stretching their lead to 14 points. They couldn't raise a gallop in Donegal, though not many will go to the northwest and win.

But on Sunday, they were marked absent in virtually every aspect of play.

Their season so far has been a microcosm of what this team are capable of. At times, they can reach great heights, and arguments can be made as to why Cork are well placed to break up the established order.

On other days, they look way out of their depth. And that has too often been the way of Cork recently.

Cork boss Peadar Healy shows his anguish. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cork boss Peadar Healy shows his anguish. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Look at the performance they produced when drawing with Kerry in Killarney last year, compared to the one that went out of the Championship with a whimper to Kildare. The Lilies in turn were hammered by the Kingdom.

In 2013, they lost the Munster final to Kerry by double scores but were unlucky not to see off Mayo for a spot in the last four.

But perhaps nothing sums up their ability to be both brilliant and bad at the same time as their League semi-final against Dublin in 2013.

Cork raced out of the blocks and put Dublin on the back foot early on in the game with two quick fire goals helping them into a 2-9 to 0-7 half-time lead.

That lead stretched to ten points on the restart but Dublin mounted a stunning comeback and hit 1-9 without reply to run out winners and leave more head scratching on Leeside.

Throw-in the success of the underage teams and the Cork Rubik's cube becomes even more difficult to figure out. They have been dominant at U-21 level recently, winning four of the last five Munster titles and nine of the last 12.

Last year's minor team brought Kerry to extra-time but they wouldn't have a glove laid on them for the rest of their successful campaign. This year's minor crop come with a big reputation too.

The only source of solace for Cork on Sunday was that there weren't too many locals there to watch their demise.

Save for a few early minutes, they could hardly have been described as competitive.

Roscommon were superb but Cork sunk themselves too with an inability to secure possession from their own kick outs and to find a way to deny the visiting forwards any sort of space. They conceded 4-22 from play and the 3-10 they scored is probably kind. It was a remarkable pasting for a side littered with All-Ireland winners.

And heading to Croke Park to face the All-Ireland champions on Saturday means things won't get any easier.

"You wouldn't beat any inter county team with that performance so we have to go back and train hard," O'Halloran said. "And that's not good enough in a Cork jersey, you shouldn't be performing like that."

O'Driscoll reckons it's not quite time to be looking over your shoulder at relegation.

"Talk of survival is a bit premature," he said. "Look, we have had three games; one good performance and two poor performances. We have just got to get back up on the horse again. I don't think there is anyone talking about survival or last four at the moment.

"We'll prepare as best we can for Dublin who are another super side. We are going to go there in a positive frame of mind. You've no business going there otherwise."

Irish Independent

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