Friday 27 April 2018

Cyril Farrell: Rebels played system that's alien to them

Cork's Cormac Murphy is given little breathing space by Brendan Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork's Cormac Murphy is given little breathing space by Brendan Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
'Cork were playing a system alien to them and when you don’t know how to implement it properly, it totally backfires on you.' Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

Watching the hurling fare over the weekend wasn't easy on the eyes and it's hard to know where both Cork and Wexford go from here. It could be a very short summer for both.

What we saw in Thurles was nothing like the Cork of old. They were playing a system alien to them and when you don't know how to implement it properly, it totally backfires on you.

Cork don't know where they are going. They're trying to copy the winning example of Waterford and Clare but both those sides have it down to a fine art and play a sweeper much more efficiently than Cork are attempting to.

Sweepers are put in place if teams don't trust their backs but Cork played the traditional two at midfield and that's totally counterproductive. You must pack that area, as we saw in the league finals, or the sweeper becomes redundant.

Cork played the rest of their team straight up but no team who effectively implements the sweeper system does that. There's not enough up there when he looks up whereas Clare have three or four players to ping it to.

Cork were trying to make sure there were no goals conceded, which is reasonable, but the tactics you implement must suit your players. They've good players but there was no zip in them.

They tried to tangle and that's not their game. It's worrying times because they were out-hurled, outmuscled and outplayed in nearly every position.

Top-class forwards like Alan Cadogan, Pat Horgan, Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane need to be brought into games. They need fast ball, and players thinking on instinct like when John Fenton used to spray the ball into attack at pace.

They're tipping and tapping, trying to give the perfect pass but by the time they give it in, the man is marked. They all tried hard but Cork weren't going anywhere at all and it was like watching headless chickens.

A good hurler will think on his feet and you if you coach the instinct out of him, you're in trouble. I really don't know where they go from here and it's likely to go from bad to worse.


They posed no trouble for Tipperary, whose backs came out completely on top, and only a few consolation points near the end made the scoreboard look somewhat respectable.

Tipp will be happy to get the win with a relatively new team, and debutants like Seamus Kennedy, Dan McCormack and Sean Curran. Once the game settled down, the Maher brothers, Ronan and Padraic, cleaned up.

Ronan went sweeper because William Egan was doing likewise at the other end but it wasn't working for the Rebels. They weren't strong enough in the conditions and their touch regularly let them down.

Tipp got some great scores with 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, Seamie Callanan and Noel McGrath floating over some lovely points. They have some beautiful touch hurlers and Cork tried to ruffle their feathers a bit.

It wasn't working, however, and to see a Cork team score just five points from play is outrageous. In Mickey Cahill, Cathal Barrett and James Barry, Tipp have a full-back line that will give nothing away.

At the other end, Tipp are good to create space for themselves, that's their natural game. Brendan Maher had a great game and was like the Maher of 2010. He's so important to their progress this year.

It's a championship win for Michael Ryan and they won't fear anyone going forward because they have the natural attackers. The next day they'll play Limerick but Tipp are in the driving seat for that game right now.

I was working in Croke Park for Dublin and Wexford and never before have we had such little ammunition to discuss a game in studio. What could you talk about? It was a non-event and Wexford simply didn't show up.

You'd wonder how good Dublin are because Wexford were so poor it was unreal. They're usually good for a rally or getting a goal and coming late but that was never coming the other night.

Liam Rushe was sitting back in the pocket and it was like nuts to a monkey while the Dublin half-forwards are all picked for movement - Plunkett, McMorrow and Treacy - they're all moving forwards and suit their style.

They're not brilliant lads under high ball though and I think Kilkenny will move up on the puck-out the next day and force them to go long. Funnily enough, they'd really like to be playing Kilkenny in Croke Park this year.

With pace and fitness in abundance, this Dubs side is set up to play there and it'd suit much better than Portlaoise because they feed on open space.

Elsewhere, I couldn't bare to watch Offaly dying and I'm delighted that they've regrouped after the Westmeath game. Sometimes when you go to the bottom of the well, it can bond a team and everything worked out.

They've won back their respectability and will be bouncing in training for the next few weeks. The draw worked out well for them because Westmeath are up against it with Galway whereas there's no guarantee that Laois will beat Offaly.


Remembering Joe

The passing of my good friend Joe McDonagh touched a lot of people over the weekend. He was a real one-off and I was proud to share some brilliant memories with him, both on and off the pitch.

We were in college together in UCG for four years, winning a Fitzgibbon Cup in 1976/'77 with other greats likes Pat Fleury, Joe Connolly and Conor Hayes. Joe hurled midfield alongside Frank Houlihan, who later captained Kilkenny.

We were wild in college. We'd go training two days a week and we'd go drinking and messing the other nights. Joe was gifted and had an unbelievable intellect. If he read a thing or heard it that was it, he wouldn't have to study or anything; he was unreal like that and always thinking outside the box.

Afterwards, I ended up over him as Galway manager and I was only a couple of years older. We always talked in college about bringing the Liam MacCarthy back across the Shannon, that was his dream and I'll never forget him singing 'The West's Awake'. It's one of those occasions that stays with you forever.

That was classic McDonagh, he would just think off the cuff and it was a beautiful scene created by a true gentleman, who'd fit in with anyone. He'd have the craic, he'd have a sing-song, he'd have a drink, he could do anything. May he rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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