Sport Hurling

Friday 20 April 2018

Cyril Farrell: Plan B let Cork down - now they must return to basics

Patrick Horgan was one of several Cork forwards who struggled against Tipperary, however, he was often starved of possession. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Patrick Horgan was one of several Cork forwards who struggled against Tipperary, however, he was often starved of possession. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

If in doubt, trust your instincts. In fact, it's probably best to rely on them in the first place, since you have them for a reason.

They're there because they informed you in the past. And presumably fairly accurately too - otherwise they wouldn't have become instincts.

Take Cork hurlers. They operated a system that was alien to them against Tipperary in May and were bombed out of Munster even more easily than the nine-point margin suggested.

It was an awful experience for Cork, a day when they appeared completely lost. Worse still, it was a total waste of time.

Teams lose Championship matches all the time but, in the second-chance era, the important thing to take from a defeat is a clear vision of how you go about being better next time.


Cork played a sweeper against Tipp but they were the ones swept away. In effect, they borrowed an idea from others, applied it badly and were wiped out.

That system doesn't suit Cork, or the type of hurlers they have. So so why go with it? Presumably, it was an attempt to cut their concession rate which, admittedly, has been very high for quite some time. Fair enough, they had to think of the security side of things but the way they went about it was misguided.

Not only did Tipperary score 22 times - and it should have been higher as they missed some good chances - Cork's return dropped alarmingly.

They finished on 13 points, with Patrick Horgan sitting on the bench for the last quarter after never getting into the game.

Cork supporters were critical of him and yes, a player of his class should have found a way of becoming more involved, but the system that day just doesn't suit him. Nor was it right for Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy or Alan Cadogan, although in fairness to the latter he did well.

Those boys need quick ball, not slow, ponderous deliveries which give the opposition, complete with an extra man, time to cut off the angles. Lehane and Co are happy to live off their wits and will trouble any defence if they get enough quick ball. They have done it regularly in the past but Cork didn't get the benefits because of the defensive problems.

In which case, they needed to work on that side of the game on an individual and collective basis, rather than tinkering with the overall structure and ending up with the worst of both worlds.

I will be amazed if they don't return to a more conventional set-up against Dublin. I'm told they played well in a challenge against Waterford recently and while Derek McGrath mixed up his squad for either half, it was still encouraging for Cork.

I expect them to win this evening. Home advantage should be a factor against a Dublin team whose confidence must be fragile after the wipe-out by Kilkenny.

Dublin are better than that but if you're going to misfire badly in the Championship, you have to make sure it's not against Kilkenny - otherwise you will have a sorry tale tell to tell.

Read more: Dublin's anxiety a midsummer night's theme

Dublin placed a big emphasis on standing up to Kilkenny physically but that only works if a team hurls as well. As everyone knows, Kilkenny relish hard battles but they never lose their core hurling values either.

Once Dublin didn't knock them off their stride, there was only going to be one outcome.

Luck has deserted Dublin by sending them to Pairc Ui Rinn, where I suspect their season will grind to a halt.

The end is nigh too for Laois and Westmeath, who are quite some way behind Clare and Limerick.

At least Westmeath have home advantage and will give it a good shot in Mullingar. They lost to Limerick by 12 points last year but have improved since then so the margin may be smaller this time.

The decline of Laois over the last year has been very disappointing for all concerned. They got the most difficult draw of all, being despatched to Ennis to play a Clare team that have been stomping the ground waiting for their campaign to resume. They'll win without any great trouble this evening.


Wexford v Offaly is more unpredictable. As with Cork, home advantage could nudge it Wexford's way, although it didn't matter in the League when Offaly beat them in Wexford Park.

Offaly have had five games so far in the Championship, whereas Wexford have had only one, where they flopped against Dublin.

That's six weeks ago, which is a ridiculously long time to have to wait between games; it's impossible to know how they will react to the long lay-off.

For some reason, Wexford are short odds-on to win but in reality it's a 50-50 contest, with home advantage possibly edging it towards Liam Dunne's lads.

So then, I expect Cork, Limerick, Clare and Wexford to be in the draw for Round 2. And whoever survives there will have strong momentum going into the All-Ireland quarter-finals at the end of the month.

Irish Independent

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