Galway 2-17 Cork 2-13 FT – National Hurling League
Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. O’Neill; D. Cahalane; B. Murphy; T. Kenny (N. McCarthy); J. Gardiner; W. Egan; L. McLoughlin (1-0); S. Og O hAilpin; C. Lehane (0-5); P. Cronin; C. Naughton (1-0; D. Sweetnam); P. Horgan (0-6f); P. O’Sullivan (0-1); J. Coughlan (0-1).
Galway: J. Skehill; D. Connolly; D. Collins; G. O’Halloran; N. Donoghue; F. Moore; J. Coen; D. Burke (0-2); A. Smith (0-2); C. Cooney (C. Donnellan); I. Tannion (0-1; J. Cooney); N. Burke (1-10; 0-7f); D. Hayes (1-1); J. Regan (D. Glennon 0-1); B. Burke.
Cork’s unbeaten run in the league come to a halt as Galway beat Cork by four points in the Pairc today. In a pretty lacklustre game – the very heavy state of the turf had a large part to play to be fair – that nonetheless featured a dramatic closing ten minutes, Galway heavily outplayed their counterparts in the second half and won despite being eight points down approaching half-time. Unfortunately for Cork with games against Kilkenny and Tipperary on the way it looks unlikely that we are going to make the league play-offs, which is a shame because it is clear management still needs some time to settle on their best fifteen.
For Galway, there were a number of standout performers. Niall Burke was deservedly named MOTM, he was central to every worthwhile Galway attack and finished the winning goal beautifully. In midfield, David Burke played considerable amounts of ball while Andy Smith drove forward well in the second half. Elsewhere James Skehill was instrumental in the Galway victory, reading Coughlan’s ten yard shot brilliantly and looking assured throughout. Defensively Galway’s full-back line struggled in the first half and generally the few times Cork put intelligent low ball in Padraig O’Sullivan and Jamie Coughlan found more room then they really should have. However the Galway inside backs were good under the dropping ball – as were the half-backs – and this was a further building block for victory. Finally, both Joe Cooney and Davy Glennon offered a little bit of extra impact in attack off the bench. And even though Galway were eight points down at one stage in the second half this was as much down to errant shooting on Galway’s part then Cork just outplaying their opposition. All in all this was a determined performance from a Galway side still short Joe Canning.
For Cork, it was a little less impressive. The game again showed up some long obvious problems – we are still short at least one half-back, Cronin’s power and assuredness is still badly needed in midfield and we can’t rely on our inside forwards to win ball in the air. These points were pretty clearly illustrated today by the poor performances of Gardiner (destroyed by Niall Burke), Sean Og (way off the pace set by Smith and Burke), and the many high balls the Galway inside backs won in the second half. To be fair there were a lot of clueless distribution by Cork in the second half, but one suspects that it is near impossible to win an All-Ireland when four of your forwards either struggle or simply can’t win 50/50 balls low and high. We need a new dynamic inside, possibly in the guise of Cian McCarthy at full forward or Rob White in the corner. Worryingly there was some new headaches – the form of Patrick Horgan and the dubious sideline decisions, namely leaving Sean Og and Gardiner on for the entire game, leaving Kenny on for so long, putting Sweetnam on at half-forward rather then midfield and bringing Niall McCarthy on for only a few minutes even though Galway’s half-back line dominated for much of the game.
Still, one can’t be too pessimistic, as there were numerous positives. Cahalane was very solid at full-back, Shane O’Neill was excellent in the first half, Egan was again powerful at half-back while Coughlan and O’Sullivan showed some intelligent movement inside, their first touch superb. Lehane of course continues to excel, scoring five points from play although he isn’t used enough from puck-outs. One has to note that Niall McCarthy, Eoin Cadogan, Stephen McDonnell and Cian McCarthy are all to come into the team – moreover if Coughlan had stuck his second half chance, or if Donal Og hadn’t literally handed the Galway forwards 1-1, the result may have been very different. Still, there is a lot of work to do still for JBM and co in getting the balance of this team correct.
Kerry 0-13 Cork 0-11 FT – National Football League
Cork: K. O’Halloran; R. Carey; M. Shields; E. Cotter (0-1); E. Cadogan; G. Canty (0-1); P. Kissane; A. O’Connor; P. O’Neill (N. O’Leary); F. Goold (0-1); M. Collins (0-1); P. Kelly; C. O’Neill (P. Kerrigan) ; A. Walsh (0-2); D. O’Connor (0-5; 0-4f).
Kerry: B. Kealy; M. O’Se; A. O’Mahony; K. Young; P. Crowley (T. O’Se); E. Brosnan; B. McGuire; A. Maher; B. Sheehan (0-5; 0-3f); P. Galvin (0-1); Darren O’Sullivan (0-1); Declan O’Sullivan (0-4; 0-2f); BJ. Keane (0-1; D. O’Callaghan); K. Donaghy (0-1); P. Curtin (K. O’Leary).
A pretty depressing display for Cork here, losing convincingly to a Kerry side that never needed to get out of first gear and generally strolled around the park in as self-assured a way as one could imagine. Unable to score anything from play for the majority of the first half and being kept to very hopeful long distance shots for much of the game, Cork did manage to out-score Kerry in the second half although really Kerry were taking a breather for most of it while Cork were sprinting up and down the pitch in a hard working and entirely pointless manner. The contrast in play from both teams couldn’t have been any more stark – Kerry countered well, always moving forward with accurate kick passing and intelligent movement; Cork on the other hand blustered all day, often going diagonally with short hand passes, the few kick passes hopeless. One can only feel sorry for O’Neill, Walsh and O’Connor inside – starved of any kind of fast ball, they had to deal not only with their own men but the Kerry half-backs as well with little support from out half-forward. Its not as if the individual talent and athleticism isn’t there for Cork, but our possession based and overly conservative gameplan is far too stale at this stage, and easily countered just with sheer numbers in defence. Indeed, its extremely hard to think watching the game Cork have one of the best and most successful set-ups at underage level in the country.
For Kerry, there were many strong performers. The back six were excellent throughout, although the entire full-back line in particular was impressive, Aidan O’Mahony getting the better of his entertaining tussle with Aidan Walsh. Kerry’s midfield performed fairly well, Anthony Maher managing to win some first time ball from kick-outs while Bryan Sheehan’s distribution and finishing was a joy to watch. Elsewhere Paul Galvin won massive amounts of breaking ball, Declan O’Sullivan was his usual stylish self and Kieran Donaghy had a very decent game considering his personal situation. All in all it was a effortless performance from Kerry, to the point in which the Kerry fans travelling home must presumably have returned to thinking Cork Football is no effective danger to their stranglehold on Munster football.
Despite the abject team performance, there was some decent individual performances from Cork. Eoin Cotter settled well into the game after a rocky opening twenty minutes and was actually one of Cork’s more assured ball-carriers; Graham Canty had one of his better games in a red jersey for a long while, was one of the few Cork leaders on the pitch and could have easily had two goals to his name; finally Eoin Cadogan played a lot of ball at half-back. In general our defense was solid, something illustrated by the complete absence of goal chances for Kerry. Further up the pitch however things were far less impressive – with only Fintan Goold and Aidan Walsh doing well. Goold won some excellent ball in the air, even if he is slow to move the ball forward he can at least kick pass accurately while Aidan Walsh worked hard throughout and consistently won dirty ball. Donnacha O’Connor and Colm O’Neill had off days, although its hard to tell how much of that is down to the ponderous Cork build-up (presumably a lot). Patrick Kelly and Mark Collins – two undeniable class acts – were completely strangled by Kerry’s extra men in defense. In general watching Cork players with the ball was painful, and considering the lack of progress in gameplan and strategy from management, one can only assume a bad year ahead for Cork football.