Saturday 16 December 2017

Cyril Farrell: Never mind the reality, just feel the width of uninformed reaction

Cork’s Alan Cadogan needs quick ball to be able to perform at his best Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cork’s Alan Cadogan needs quick ball to be able to perform at his best Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

I chuckled when I read Martin O'Neill's comments this week that he would not be bringing a psychologist, mind guru or any other type of motivational specialist into the Irish soccer camp for the Euro Championships.

"That's my job," he said after explaining how, during his club management days, he had been approached at various times by psychologists offering their services.

"All of them highlighted their work with clubs which had been successful. A year later, that team gets relegated, they've moved on to another club, which appears on their CV. Then, the manager gets the sack," said O'Neill.


How right he is. The buck always stops with the manager in any team sport.

Others can walk away and, in the case of mind gurus, they can - and do - talk up areas where they were associated with success and quietly ignore the others.

In my management days in Galway, I always took the view that if I was the one carrying the can, I was the only one entitled to bore holes in it.

Obviously, there's a world of difference between a professional soccer team and the GAA set-up. Insofar as finance allows, the club boss in soccer can build a team to his liking whereas the GAA manager has to work off what's available around him, whether it be club or county.

I wonder if Cork or Wexford people who were frothing at the mouth after last weekend's championship games actually stopped to consider that.

Both teams gave disappointing performances but are there better players in either county who weren't in action?

'Yes' is the answer in Wexford but it wasn't Liam Dunne's fault they weren't playing.

His squad has been ravaged by injury and since he's working off a young base, they couldn't afford to lose players like Andrew Shore, Lee Chin and some others who would have made a difference.

Dunne had to deal from the available deck and while he hoped to be much closer to Dublin, it would have been a major surprise if Wexford won. That's the reality. There's good young talent in Wexford but it will take time to mature at senior level, a process made all the harder by not having a core of really experienced players to provide leadership during a difficult game.

Cork have plenty experience but just aren't good enough these days. It's as simple as that.

I still think they are better than they looked last Sunday but those in Cork who are complaining about Kieran Kingston should ask themselves: what have I done, or what am I doing, to make sure that whatever senior manager is in place has better players to choose from?

The same goes for Wexford or indeed any other county where the manager takes the flak for bad results. That seems to be just about every county nowadays, except the All-Ireland winners.

Even an All-Ireland-winning manager can ship criticism, as Davy Fitzgerald discovered in Clare in 2013 when his style of play came under attack locally. Spare me - what do people want? Is an All-Ireland title not enough?

The obsessive focus on the manager is part of the modern game but it often misses the point.

Sure, I'd do some things differently if I were running Cork last Sunday. So would you and everyone else too. But would we be right?

Old style, new style or any other style - you can only use the players you have and if they're not good enough, then results will be the same, as Cork discovered last Sunday.


Nonetheless, I would have tweaked a few things. If you're playing a sweeper against Tipperary, make sure their spare man in defence is not Padraic or Ronan Maher.

They are both half-backs, which means they pick up loose ball further out. They are also accurate deliverers of the ball so you need to keep them occupied with marking duties, rather than given time to pick out their target in attack.

A five-man forward line can decide who the opposition's spare man is by positioning themselves smartly. In my view, it makes more sense to force the opposition into having a corner-back - or even a full-back - as the spare man. Also, Cork's deliveries to their attack were too slow.

The likes of Cadogan, Horgan and Lehane need quick ball, especially when they're outnumbered but they didn't get it last Sunday.

Instead, slow ball was played - not very accurately either - into an area where Tipp had more bodies and a good shape.

Still, whatever Cork did, they would have been beaten because Tipperary are better than them at present, just as Dublin are better than Wexford.

Supporters might find that hard to take but then reality is often the hardest pill of all to swallow.

It's far easier to round on managers and players, however illogical it might be.

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