Thursday 23 November 2017

'Floodlights will do nothing for occasion' - Ger Cunningham

Cunningham fears late start may ruin final replay

Pa Cronin scores Cork's third goal but needs to get closer to the action
Pa Cronin scores Cork's third goal but needs to get closer to the action
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Cork hurling coach Ger Cunningham has struck a somewhat apprehensive note over the prospect of an All-Ireland hurling final replay being played out under floodlights later this month.

It is anticipated that, with a 5.0 throw-in, the lights will be on for all or part of the match and the counties have been written to with an offer of evening use of the pitch for familiarisation purposes in the build-up to the replay.

Cunningham was unaware yesterday as to whether the lights would be on, but hinted that they would be receptive to any offer of a run-out to familiarise themselves with the settings.

Both the Cork and Clare players will have had some experience of lights in the Gaelic Grounds and Semple Stadium, but Croke Park is a new departure.

"It's not ideal for some guys. Some players wouldn't be comfortable playing under lights. Some fellas have eyesight problems and find it difficult.

"I think ourselves and Clare wouldn't have played in Croke Park under lights before, so it's a bit different again," said Cunningham at yesterday's Bord Gais All-Ireland U-21 final reception. We'll have to have a chat among ourselves to see if we will go there," he added.

Cunningham has added his voice to the opposition to the throw-in time and the day of the week that has been chosen.

Questionable

"From the point of view that it's an All-Ireland final, I think Saturday, playing it at 5.0 doesn't do anything for the occasion," Cunningham said.

"It's certainly a time that's questionable. We were talking about it the other night as to why it's 5.0. Even 4.0 would have been better. Now there's the possibility that you could be playing an All-Ireland final under lights, maybe in the second half, depending on the weather.

"There was a request from the county board for a 3.0 throw-in, with 4.0 as a compromise. If you start it at 4.0, the chances are you would get it finished in daylight and it would also help the supporters travelling from Clare and Cork. It's a long journey home and I think some Cork supporters had a journey home of six hours last week due to a crash on the motorway."

Cunningham acknowledged that Cork will have to make the most improvement for the next day and have played much better this season than what they showed last Sunday.

"We have played better, but it's a big day, it's a big occasion, All-Ireland final day, so, hopefully, the fact that all those guys have such a high-pressure game under their belts will help them feel more comfortable playing in that environment the next day.

"Maybe it was a case of nerves, but I think Clare took the game to us at the start. Some people are slow in settling into a game, but Clare went from the off," he reflected.

"Sometimes when you get a start on a team it's hard to get into a game. I think Clare were very good, they played really well, they're a young side who are on the way up and they're going to be around for a long time.

"They started better and some of our fellas found it difficult to get into the game. It's not a pleasant place to be when you're chasing the game and things not going well for you so hopefully we have room for improvement on that front."

Cunningham has defended the distance the Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash routinely gains when he is striking penalties and close-range frees.

Nash has perfected the art of lifting the ball high and connecting with it, the effect of which was a gain of six or seven yards each time last Sunday.

"There's no rule against it," said Cunningham. "It's a very difficult thing to do to throw up the ball seven yards ahead and hit it full force. You don't see that many fellas doing it. They might go three or four yards, but it's an exceptional flick-up and to be able to connect bang-on is a great skill."

Cunningham said that, in his recollection, only his former midfield colleague John Fenton struck the ball with such ferocity.

"I faced John Fenton a few times and John had a fierce whack of a ball. He did something similar, threw it up and came in."

Cunningham admitted Cork weren't surprised that Clare decided to dispense with the sweeper system that had served them so successfully in the previous games and line out in a more conventional manner.

Coaching

"Fitzy's been involved in hurling a long time, he's been coaching teams and nothing would surprise you in relation to what he's done or what he would do," said Cunningham.

"That was our fifth time playing them and he's probably played us five different ways all through the season. He won two matches in the quarter-final and semi-final playing with a sweeper.

"All the experts and pundits were saying he wouldn't change it. We probably thought it would be his favoured option having won the two games.

"But, with Fitzy, he's liable to do anything, so, it wasn't a huge surprise really that he went 15 against 15."

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