Saturday 16 December 2017

Ulster road trips a blessing in disguise for Rebels - Loughrey

James Loughrey, Cork, is tackled by Dermot Malone, Monaghan
James Loughrey, Cork, is tackled by Dermot Malone, Monaghan
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

James Loughrey laughs at the sense of geography, or lack of it, that his Cork football colleagues have.

For Loughrey, the Division 1 league draw that sends them north for all four away games is a Godsend. It takes him closer to his roots in Antrim, where he left some three years ago to take up residence in the Rebel County.

For all four trips, Cork will be using a central base in Enniskillen, from where they will travel on to Ballyshannon, Derry and Omagh, having already been to Castleblayney last Sunday.

"The boys don't have a clue. They think Enniskillen is beside Monaghan and Donegal is beside Monaghan. It's a geography trip on the way up. They didn't even know if it was euros or sterling they were using," he laughed.

But their 3,300-kilometre tour of some of Ulster football's toughest cauldrons can serve a purpose too.

Loughrey knows the football in those parts and sees the benefits that a team trying to change the way they set up can get from these games.

"I enjoy the games coming up here. These (Cork) boys don't think it's football! But it's good. It's good to get away. It's really a team-bonding exercise. I love playing the teams up here, I was brought up on it, and it's good to get the win as well," he reflected.

He disputed Dublin manager Jim Gavin's view that it was the most defensive Cork team he had come across last week.

"It definitely wasn't our most defensive performance last week. To be honest we were very, very disappointed last week," he said.

"We're a bit farther ahead than Dublin maybe and that was the only reason that we won - not defensive structures or anything like that."

Loughrey understands that it is going to take a lot of time for Cork to give themselves a better security screen after the mauling they took from Kerry in last year's Munster final.

"Look at Donegal. It takes a year or longer to master a defensive structure. You can't just suddenly do it, especially coming up here to play these teams," he said.

"The northern teams are so used to it and Monaghan play defensive as well so maybe we wouldn't have been so exposed. But that's still definitely a work in progress for us and something we're working on every day.

"Last year we tried a bit (to play defensive) but you can't just suddenly decide you're going to play defensively and play a sweeper. Everyone tries to play a sweeper but 95pc don't know how to play it. You have to work on it.

"(Jim) McGuinness was taking the boys up to Letterkenny for nine hours just to talk about how to play it. There really needs to be a lot of time spent on how you play it. It's not just playing one or two boys back and hoping it works out."

Loughrey hopes the Munster final is out of the system but admits it's a day that haunts him.

"I'll never forget it and I'm sure a lot of the boys won't, but collectively it was just a game. It was surreal. But like someone said during the week, 'no-one died'."

Irish Independent

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