Friday 23 August 2019

Cyril Farrell: 'Kilkenny will get in Cork faces from throw-in but Rebels' firepower to nudge it'

Eoin Cadogan. Photo: Sportsfile
Eoin Cadogan. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

You're a Cork back and you've had enough. You're sick of hearing that sloppy defending is the reason the Liam MacCarthy Cup hasn't been paraded on St Patrick's Street in recent years.

You've heard about how the Cork forwards are scoring enough to win most games, but aren't getting the required back-up. It's a wonder they're even talking to you.

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They're filling the bucket and you're spilling it. Every time Cork are mentioned, the defence comes in for critical comment. So what do you do?

First, you explain that it's not quite as simple as a great forward line being let down by careless security men.

You point out that everyone has defensive responsibilities. Okay, so maybe not to the same degree, but you would have a much better time against opposing forwards if their supply wasn't as plentiful or as accurate.

Defence isn't purely a zone - it's a state of mind, an understanding that the corner-back gaining possession a foot from his endline can be an immediate source of danger at the other end.

So while the Cork defence is being criticised, they can legitimately question if the problems are entirely down to them or whether others are failing to apply enough pressure on the opposition way out the field.

Now, the Cork defence, marshalled by Eoin Cadogan and Mark Ellis, can't outsource all the blame, but they are certainly justified in pointing at others too.

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Kilkenny don't have similar issues. They are not the power of old, but one area where there's absolutely no difference is in the work ethic of every player from 1 to 15, plus the subs who come on.

The same will apply tomorrow. Kilkenny will get in Cork faces from throw-in, legitimately it must be said, testing to see how they react to relentless intensity.

Kilkenny know that the fear factor which carried in the past is no longer there. There were days in their glory years when the black-and-amber jersey alone was worth three or four points, but that's gone now. Kilkenny realise that the opposition see them very much as equals these days, which makes it all the more important for them to work even harder.

The defeats by Galway and Wexford raised doubts about Kilkenny's true worth, but they lost both by a single score, so it would be unwise to make definitive judgements based on those games alone.

An area of concern for Kilkenny is the over-reliance on TJ Reid in attack. He's one of the best of his generation, but he needs more consistent help.

Having said that, the Kilkenny attack will probably find it easier to play against Cork than against Wexford, who used a sweeper most effectively. Cork will opt mainly for a man-on-man approach, with midfielders and half-forwards dropping back to fill channels as required.

Kilkenny will feel that with a little more accuracy, they would have beaten Wexford so they are going into this game in a good frame of mind. So are Cork, even if they lost twice in Munster.

They also beat Limerick, which was quite a feather in their caps, especially after losing to Tipperary.

They have been the 'nearly' team of the last two years and will realise that delivery time is running out. Defeat tomorrow would spark a major shake-up next year, so careers are on the line.

Croke Park will suit their forwards, who have several superb ball strikers, led by Patrick Horgan. I fancy them to run in a sufficiently big score to nudge past Kilkenny on this occasion.

Liam Sheedy went to O'Moore Park last Sunday to make notes on Dublin and came away with a file on Laois.

He would have been as surprised as everybody else by the dramatic turn of events, which gave Tipperary unexpected quarter-final opponents.

It has been a fantastic week for Laois and while tomorrow will probably bring the end of the line for this season, it's one they will remember for a long time. Full credit to all the people who have worked so hard with youngsters for so long - last Sunday's success was a reward for their efforts.

Eddie Brennan has done a superb job uniting a county which has had its share of divisions over the years. It's clear that the talent is there to drive Laois on further over the coming years.

As for tomorrow, Tipperary's attacking firepower looks certain to steer them in the semi-final.

It's an important occasion for them as they need to get their game moving again after a disappointing performance in the Munster final.

Some flaws showed up that day, which need to be addressed.

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