Cork 1-12 Dublin 0-12 FT – National Football League 2012

Cork: K. O’Halloran; E. Cotter (J. O’Sullivan); M. Shields; R. Carey; S. Kiely (P. Kissane); G. Canty; E. Cadogan (O’Leary); A. O’Connor (N. Murphy); P. O’Neill (0-2); F. Goold (0-1); P. Kerrigan (0-2); P. Kelly; C. O’Neill (0-4; 0-2f); A. Walsh (1-1); D. O’Connor (0-2; 0-1f).

Dublin: M. Savage; C. O’Sullivan; R. O’Carroll; P. McMahon; J. McCarthy; S. Murray (D. Bastic); K. Nolan (P. Brogan); K. Cooper; E. Fennell (0-1; R. McConnell); D. Byrne (B. Cahill); MD. MaCauley (0-2); B. Cullen (0-2); C. Dias (D. Kelly); D. Connolly (0-5; 0-2f); K. McManamon (0-2).

Cork booked their place in the league semi-final with a uninspiring victory at home against a depleted Dublin side. Cork – leaving Paudie Kissane and Noel O’Leary on the bench for Sean Kiely and Eoin Cadogan – were excellent in the opening twenty minutes, Paul Kerrigan and Aidan Walsh’s movement in particular hurting Dublin until they began to tighten up, funnel more players back and get more of a grip on midfield. For the rest of the game Dublin were often in the ascendancy, despite being short the two Brogans, Brennan and Cluxton and if it was not for some poor free-taking and a fluke Cork goal Dublin could easily have won.

For Dublin, this was a very decent performance considering the players they were missing and their poor performance last week against Mayo. Their backs were extremely loose for much of the first half but as the became more and more defensive and introduced Bastic and Cahill to the middle of the pitch they began to stifle Cork’s attack plan. Unfortunately for Dublin, only Connolly – and to a lesser extent, McManamon – offered any real threat up front, although Dias and Cullin were effective link up players, particularly the latter player in the second half. Moreover, Connolly hit a number of bad wides that probably would have been put over if Cluxton was starting, while the replacement goalkeeper Savage was lost for Walsh’s goal. Elsewhere, McCauley worked hard and got two excellent points, while he, Bastic and Cahill dominated their Cork counter-parts in the middle third throughout the second half.

Defensively, Cooper was solid throughout while McCarthy was eye-catching going forward and offers a more adventurous dynamic to a typically cautious team. Elsewhere, Dublin’s inside backs did fine, although they were well protected by the banks of Dublin players that funnelled back whenever Cork had the ball. Tactically, Dublin did what Cork always struggle against – banks of players behind the ball, closing down space and then attacking on the counter – and if they had even a decent freetaker would at least have gotten a draw.

For Cork, the opening twenty minutes aside, where we showed considerable dash and energy, this was the same old same old. For much of the game we moved forward with little purpose and no creativity, our inside forwards starved of the ball for large amounts of the second half while we also struggled to compete for the ball both aerially and on the ground at times. At the back, the entire full-back line struggled to stay with their men, although this was not entirely their fault considering the whole world of space in front of Connolly and McManamon. The half-back line was decent – Cadogan and Kiely went forward with purpose, the latter showing some good footpasses before he went off injured while Canty looked fit and strong – and the fact that they were dragged up the pitch was more a by-product of our inability to move the ball forward quick enough to defeat Dublin’s blanket defence.

In midfield, Pearse O’Neill and Alan O’Connor weren’t influential as they typically are, which was a problem considering Cork more then any other major team need the majority of possession to win. O’Neill did put over two fine points but if neither player is winning considerable amounts of primary possession then there position on the pitch has to be in doubt considering how much they tend to slow us down going forward. Fintan Goold again showed that he is quietly becoming an important player for us, winning numerous short kick-outs in the first half and showing considerable poise on the ball, while Kerrigan was energetic in the opening half he, like most of the forwards, struggled with the lack of space in the second. Colm O’Neill was excellent the few times he got the ball, and his undoubted class – a commodity short in this Cork team – and ability to kick long range points means he will surely start come championship. Aidan Walsh also had a decent game, offering a strong vocal point at full-forward for our attack and with numerous high balls in the second half when moved to midfield. However, the long standing negatives for Cork – problems at corner-back, ponderous play going forward, lack of fast ball inside and an inability to deal with blanket defences – still persist, and today further suggested the aren’t going to go away any time soon.

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Cork 1-23 Tipperary 1-23 – National Hurling League

Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. O’Neill; S. McDonnell; B. Murphy; S. Og O hAilpin; E. Cadogan; W. Egan (0-1f); L. McLoughlin (J. Gardiner 0-1); D. Sweetnam (0-3; T. Kenny); C. Lehane (1-2); P. Cronin (0-1); C. Naughton (0-4); J. Coughlan (0-2); P. O’Sullivan; P. Horgan (0-9; 0-3f).

Tipperary: B. Cummins; D. Maher; P. Curran; M. Cahill; T. Stapleton (0-1); C. O’Mahony; P. Maher (0-1); B. Maher (A. Ryan); J. Woodlock (0-1; J. Ryan); G. Ryan (0-2; S. McGrath); N. McGrath (0-5; T. Hammersley); P. Bourke (0-6; 0-2f); S. Bourke (0-3); B. O’Meara (E. Kelly 0-1); J. O’Brien (0-3).

A Patrick Horgan point ensured a draw for Cork in Thurles and a league semi-final spot for the Rebels. In an entertaining, skillful game short on physicality and cynicism both teams showed off some beautiful forward play throughout, with both sets of defences struggling to  mark either men or space. Although the game in general bore little relation to championship fare due to the cavalier and care-free play of both teams, its clear that both Tipp and Cork are looking strong going forward, both teams looking very fit, and showing off some fine finishing and touch. In reality both sides will be pretty happy with a result that keeps both team’s momentum going forward into the play-off stages of the league.

For Tipp, the performances throughout the pitch were mixed. At the back, Cahill and Maher were fairly solid throughout and kept Coughlan largely in check although the marking on Horgan, and Lehane when he moved inside, was a lot looser. Along side him Curran kept O’Sullivan scoreless but the latter assisted numerous scores for Cork, including Lehane’s goal. Tipp’s half-back line was very solid, Paraic Maher close to putting in a MOTM display, destroyed Lehane under Cork’s puck-outs and generally showed the kind of physicality that very few hurlers in the country have. Stapleton generally had a good game but struggled to deal with Naughton’s pace on a couple of occasions in the second half. Tipp’s midfield seemed to get the worst of their battle with McLoughlin and Sweetnam, the former pretty much unmarked for large parts of the game although the introduction of Shane McGrath helped Tipp in this sector in the second half.

The Tipperary forward’s really stood out – Pa Bourke won some excellent ball off Sean Og in the second half and his finishing was excellent, while Noel McGrath ghosted into great positions and repeatedly again and again picked up breaking ball. Inside Shane Bourke performed well with whatever ball he was given knocking over three points and John O’Brien was excellent when moved into the half-forward line, again and again with aerial ball. Brian O’Meara however was largely anonymous and his finishing for his goal chance was very poor – still he revels in more physical encounters. All in all it was impressive Tipp performance, particularly considering they have Bonnar Maher, Eoin Kelly, Callinan and Shane McGrath to still come into their starting fifteen.

Again Jimmy Barry-Murphy will be happy with his charges performances, with a few qualifications. Cadogan was brilliant before tiring out in the last ten minutes, competing strongly for every ball and really leading the defence like every good center-back does. Sean Og was also strong and impressive in possession although Pa Bourke won rather a lot of ball off him under his nose in the second half. Egan, considering he had a championship game mid-week, did fine. Inside, Steven McDonnell had another very solid and mistake-less game. At midfield, the always stylish Sweetnam was excellent in the first half and grabbed three points, while McLoughlin was very influential throughout, winning breaking ball non stop. At the same time, the loose nature of the game would suit McLoughlin, but there is little doubt he is improving every game.

Up front, Horgan had his best game of the league campaign, and eye-catchingly won a difficult ball to grab the equalising point. Naughton put in a fine performance but again these kind of games suit him perfectly; Cronin had a good tussle with O’Mahony and largely broke even, and again did well considering he was again our only puck-out option. Lehane had very little luck all day and was largely out played by Maher, which says everything about his talent considering he still scored 1-2 from play. Padraig O’Sullivan’s link-up play was excellent, and the more intelligent style of play that Cork are using under Cunningham is bringing out the best of him.

There was a handful of worrying performances. Coughlan was pretty much out muscled all day long, and his touch is still very nervy. Both corner-backs had worrying days, their first touches very poor at times. Donal Og’s puck-outs were similarly quite poor, although it should be said the fact that Lehane was struggling on Maher under the dropping ball meant Cronin was his only option. Still, he hit at least four puck-outs inaccurately in the first half alone, his precision, usually excellent, not quite there. He also failed to try and hit McLoughlin when he was free on a couple of different occasions. Still, this situation will hopefully improve when Niall McCarthy returns. All in all, mission accomplished for Cork, who will now continue their league campaign against Tipperary again in three week’s time.

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Cork 3-15 Clare 1-6 – U-21 Munster Football Championship

Cork: S. Mellet; D. O’Donovan (C. O’Sullivan); D. Cahalane; A. Cronin; J. Cronin (B. O’Driscoll); T. Clancy; J. Wall (1-0); R. O’Sullivan (E. Healy); R. Deane (D. Nation); K. Hallisey (0-1); M. Sugrue (1-1); J. O’Rourke (0-5); B. Hurley (0-4; D. Drake 0-1); D. McEoin (0-1); L. Connolly (1-2; 0-1f).

Clare: W. De Loughrey; E. Ralph; E. Malone; M. O’Connor (C. O’Brien); S. Malone (0-1); S. Collins; S. Tierney; K. O’Connor; C. Ryan (M. O’Shea); D. O’Neill (1-1); P. Collins (P. Dillon 0-1); M. Malone (S. O’Driscoll 0-1); E. Finucane (R. Linnane); C. McInerney (0-2); S. Brennan.

Cork dismantled a over-matched Clare side to set up a Munster final against Kerry in Tralee. Despite racing into a small lead with a early O’Neill goal Clare were being dominated throughout the pitch after twenty minutes and at half-time, despite Cork only being seven points up, the game was essentially over as Cork’s midfield and half-forward line were completely dominant. Worryingly for Cork star forward Donal Og Hodnett didn’t start the game and captain Rory O’Sullivan went off injured, his right leg heavily braced, mid way through the first half.

For Clare, there were very few bright spots. In the opening twenty minutes they tried hard with O’Neill on the edge of the square towering over Cahalane and scoring a decent goal. Elsewhere center-forward Collins sprayed a couple of nice passes the few times he got possession while Cathal McInerney was very lively on the ball – he was also largely starved of possession for most of the game. In the second half Clare were poor throughout the pitch, although half-back Malone drove forward well a couple of times and subs O’Driscoll and Malone kicked a couple of nice points. In reality though they were cleaned out in the breaks in middle of the pitch, never getting control of the likes of O’Rourke and Wall while the entire teams conditioning was far inferior to their opponents.

For Cork, its hard to really judge how good the team is considering the poverty of the opposition’s play. We did struggle a little in the full-back line at times, O’Neill’s goal – a aimless high ball tapped in and completely uncontested by Cahalane and Mellet – and the sometimes lax marking of McInerney and Brennan suggested our inside backs are maybe not the strongest. We do have some players that excel at winning ball on the ground – Wall in particular won countless breaks and drove forward in his typically cavalier way, while O’Rourke at half-forward was (again) really eye-catching, classy on the ball and well able to pick out a pass. Both look the most obvious future Cork seniors, presuming Counihan moves on and lads below six foot are allowed play inter-county football for us again. Further up the pitch, Connolly looked awkward at times but his finishing was generally good and his work ethic was exemplary, while Hurley and Hallissey showed flashes of their undoubted talent. Finally, Deane completely dominated in the middle of the pitch. Our forwards clearly have real class, with more to come from the likes of McEoin, Drake and hopefully Hodnett. Still, considering the game was only really competitive for the opening twenty minutes, its difficult if not impossible to say how good this Cork side really is.

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Cork 1-17 Kilkenny 1-15 FT – National Hurling League

Cork: D. Og Cusack; S. O’Neill; S. McDonnell; B. Murphy; S. Og O hAilpin; E. Cadogan; W. Egan (0-2f); L. McLoughlin; D. Sweetnam (0-1; J. Gardiner); C. Lehane (0-1); P. Cronin (0-1); C. Naughton (0-2; N. McCarthy); J. Coughlan (0-1); P. O’Sullivan (1-1); P. Horgan (0-8; 0-6f).

Kilkenny: D. Herity; P. Murphy; N. Hickey; W. Phelan; K. Joyce; B. Hogan; JJ. Delaney; M. Fennelly; M. Rice (0-1); TJ. Reid (0-1; A. Fogarty); R. Power (1-11; 1-9f); R. Hogan (0-2).

Cork scored a surprise victory over a out of shape Kilkenny side today in sunny conditions in the Pairc. Kilkenny, short Tommy Walsh, Tennyson, Shefflin, Dalton and Aidan Fogarty largely threw the game away in the closing minutes hitting numerous bad wides whereas Cork were generally far more efficient up front. In reality the game was won for Cork largely due to poor Kilkenny discipline and shooting and the fact that Cork kept Kilkenny to two goal chances, one of which was the penalty. Most importantly, the result puts Cork in with a very strong chance of making the league semi-finals, an extra competitive game important to this young team’s development.

For Kilkenny, it was the second successive lax performance, and its clear the depth that was there a few year’s back isn’t. Both Ruth and Murphy were completely ineffective up front and subbed, although to be fair the former looked like he was being played out of position. Larkin didn’t look match fit and in reality it was Power who was the one constant up front throughout, showing typically brilliant movement to trouble both McDonnell and Cadogan. Hogan had a decent second half as well and scored a couple of classy points. In midfield, Rice played a huge amount of ball in the first half, his engine and movement ensuring Sweetnam was at least five yards of him whenever he got the ball. Surprisingly, Fennelly was completely ineffective beside him, and did little ‘noteworthy’ bar try and take Lehane out of the game in the first half with a shoulder to the chest. The performance of the backs should maybe worry Kilkenny fans most however – Delaney – taken off Lehane after twenty minutes – and Joyce looked slow, in fact the Kilkenny defence as a unit looked rather leggy and often struggled to deal with not just Lehane but also Coughlan and Horgan’s movement. Nonetheless, Hogan was excellent at center-back and got the better of Cronin in a physical battle. Regardless, considering the players Kilkenny have to come back, one would still fancy them for the AI big time – however against a fussy referee they are going to get penalised more then most, such is their full-body aggression in the tackle.

For Cork, it was surely our most encouraging performance and result of the league campaign to date. Defensively, we were excellent, and one can only assume the same back six will start come Tipp in the championship – McDonnell is growing into the full-back spot far quicker then expected, Brian Murphy is still the unsung hero of the side and Shane O’Neill is looking more and more like his old self. Sean Og put in what was close to a MOTM performance at half-back, playing a load of ball against the admittedly weak Ruth, Cadogan  was solid-ish, dealing as about as well as can be expected with someone as good as Power while Egan won some brilliant ball in the air.

The midfield did ok – McLoughlin had little influence but he kept Fennelly as quiet as possible, while Rice gave Sweetnam the run around in the first half the 18 year old was again physical and poised on the ball. The half-forward line was ok – Cronin was competitive and has an extremely difficult assignment being on the receiving end of the majority of Donal Og’s puck-outs. He is far more assured in midfield but with Cian McCarthy and Bill Cooper’s long term absence and Niall McCarthy’s complete lack of match fitness he will probably be at 11 for the year. Lehane was excellent, tearing past Delaney three times in the first twenty minutes and doing pretty much the same thing to Murphy throughout the second half – his point was score of the game. The insides were good – Coughlan’s touch was affected by nerves but he is lively and will only improve, Horgan was excellent from dead ball situations while Paudie O’Sullivan worked hard and was full of lovely touches and clever movement. But in reality this was a win built on a miserly Cork defence, and a mixture of Kilkenny indiscipline and inaccuracy – Cork are improving, but how fast is still up for debate.

I missed the U-21 game because I’m a lazy bastard, but it ended in a draw despite Kilkenny having a much stronger team out, so a promising sign for the year.

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Double Header In The Pairc…

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.

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Cork 2-18 Dublin 2-17 – National Hurling League

Cork: D. Og Cusack; B. Murphy; S.McDonnell; S. O’Neill; E. Cadogan; R. Cashman (W. Egan 0-1); J. Gardiner (D. Sweetnam); T. Kenny (McLoughlin); S. Og O hAilpin; C. Lehane (0-3); P. Cronin (1-3); C. Naughton (1-1); B. O’Connor (0-1; J. Coughlan); P. O’Sullivan (0-2); P. Horgan (0-7; 0-5f).

Dublin: G. Maguire; N. Corcoran; P. Schutte; R. Treanor; M. Carton; J. Boland (0-2); S. Durkin; J. McCaffrey (R. O’Carroll; E. Dillon); D. Sutcliffe (0-5); C. McCormack (D. O’Callaghan); R. O’Dwyer (1-0); S. Lambert (1-2); D. Treacy (A. McCrabbe); L. Rushe; P. Ryan (0-8; 0-4f).

Cork pilfered a lucky win today in Croke Park against an under-strength Dublin side. Down four points with ten minutes to go, Cork scraped victory thanks to a Pa Cronin goal and the performances of substitutes William Egan and Darren Sweetnam. Dublin – missing at least five starters including Keaney and Kelly – will feel hard done by as they dominated the second half with some hard trademark tackling and would have gotten a deserved draw if Paul Ryan hadn’t driven his extra time free wide. Considering the amount of players they were missing however their second half performance should be a confidence boost for their fans. Cork should also be happy with two victories out of two and some impressive performances from our young players in the closing ten minutes, although it will be the Kilkenny match that really tells us where we are.

For Dublin, there were many impressive performances. Danny Sutcliffe probably stood out most, getting 0-5 from play and dominating the midfield in the second half. Joey Boland was also excellent at center-back, scoring two long distance points and generally getting the better of Pa Cronin from general play (although Cronin did get the match winning goal). Elsewhere I thought Corcoran worked hard in the full-back line, Lambert was one of the few really excellent Dublin players in the first half before tiring towards the end of the game while Liam Rushe bullied Stephen McDonnell physically throughout. Finally, and although he missed some awful frees including one to equalise the game, Paul Ryan showed plenty of class on the ball and continues to be one of the more underrated forwards in hurling. In general, when Dublin upped the intensity in the second half, they dominated Cork, causing turnovers and forcing the Cork players backwards – if they get a few players back and play with similar intensity they should avoid relegation.

For Cork, it was overwhelmingly the young players that dragged us over the line. Lehane plucked 3-4 excellent balls out of the air and was deadly with his few scoring attempts – however Cork need to do a better job at getting him involved. Both Egan and Sweetnam played huge amounts of ball when they came on, the former catching a number of important overhead balls in the dying minutes and the latter looking a real natural in the wide spaces of Croke Park, being instrumental for example in Cronin’s goal. Likewise McLoughlin won some nice ball at half-back although his tendency to over-elaborate and strong running means he is in my opinion more suited to midfield. Elsewhere, Brian Murphy was very solid in the corner, Donal Og had a decent game (although it looked like Lambert’s goal could have been saved), Pa Cronin grabbed 1-3 outside of his best position while Padraig O’Sullivan did an excellent job of showing for the ball at full-forward, although it still seems clear that we need a physical presence to consistently win ball in the air near the box. Finally, Eoin Cadogan was steady throughout and Cork’s best player on show.

However the performances of Tom Kenny and John Gardiner should worry Barry-Murphy, neither offering much in the way of anything and both called ashore relatively early. Similarly, Sean Og won a lot of ball in the middle of the field but his short possession game seems just holds up the game and his man Sutcliffe was Dublin’s most influential player. One suspects Cashman lacks a little bit of class and pace for the half-back line, although it was a little surprising to see him taken off so quickly – most worrying is his tendency to get dispossessed so easily in bad positions, something that led to Lambert’s goal. Similarly Shan O’Neill was pretty poor, his first touch way off. Finally, some will say McDonnell  struggled badly on Rushe – to be honest, Rushe is a monster under the high ball, and McDonnell probably did as well as any other Cork player could have done on him. Hopefully McDonnell will continue to mature as a full-back, as we badly need Cadogan in the half-back line going forward.

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Fitzgibbon Cup 2012 – Semi-Finals

C.I.T. 0-17 L.I.T. 1-9 

C.I.T.: K. Roche; B. Withers; S. McDonnell; S. Daniels (E. Keane); S. White; L. McLoughlin; P. O’Connor; J. Coughlan; M. O’Sullivan (0-1; N. Kelly); J. Cronin (0-2); D. Drake (A. Walsh); P. Gould (0-3); C. Fennelly (0-2); P. O’Sullivan (0-4; 0-1f); T. Quaid (0-5f; D. Lordan).

L.I.T.: A. Fahy; E. Glynn; R. McCarthy; B. Glynn; J. Hayes; J. O’Keeffe; P. O’Brien (0-1); P. Browne (0-1); S. Lambert; S. O’Brien; C. Madden; E. Ryan (1-5; 0-3f); C. McInerney; R. Horan (0-2; M. Duggan); C. O’Connell.

C.I.T. convincingly beat a weak L.I.T. team today in the opening semi-final of the Fitzgibbon cup. L.I.T., short of their star forwards Joe Canning and Sean Collins, were badly short of physicality and firepower up front, and almost entirely reliant on Eoin Ryan in this sector of the pitch. In reality the game was over just after half-time as C.I.T. suffocated their opponents of possession, a very late L.I.T. goal putting a gloss on the scoreboard for the Limerick men. For C.I.T., it was another hard-working team performance that – considering the lack of pace and intensity in the second half – will set them up nicely for the final.

As noted, L.I.T. were badly lacking up front, with only Eoin Ryan and to a lesser extent Seanie O’Brien impressing. Neither of the Clare corner-forwards – McInerney and O’Connell, usually two decent operators – had any impact and much of the nice passing and good work done out the pitch by the likes of Paul Browne and Paudie O’Brien was undone by a real lack of edge up front. Moreover, as the game grew L.I.T. struggled more and more to win possession in the middle of the pitch while their Tipp inter-county star center-back John O’Keeffe had little to no impact on the game. Only Ryan, the two O’Briens and to a lesser extent Horan and McCarthy really had positive games – it was a shame that both Canning and Collins were missing however, as it was clear in the first half L.I.T. were capable of playing a nice brand of hurling.

For C.I.T., there were numerous excellent individual displays. Stephan McDonnell again put in a assured display at full-back, while Withers in the corner was solid. However it was the C.I.T. half-back line that really won the game, with McLoughlin and in particular Stephen White excelling throughout. Elsewhere Michael O’Sullivan toiled hard in the middle of the pitch while John Cronin pilfered two points from half-forward and Tommy Quaid was fairly accurate from the deadball. Up front Paudi O’Sullivan, Padraig Gould and to a lesser extent Colin Fennelly offered the kind of class badly lacking in L.I.T.’s attack while substitutes like Aidan Walsh and Eoin Keane further show the depth C.I.T. have in their squad. By and large it was another industrious team performance from a C.I.T. side that seem to have developed a knack for putting in consistent, complete performances whatever the competition.

UCC 1-15 U.L. 0-15 

U.C.C.: D. McCarthy; S. Maher; J. O’Callaghan; K. Murphy; J. Barry; D. Fives; W. Egan (0-2; 0-1f); P. Mahoney; B. Murray (0-1; B. Hartnett); P. O’Mahoney (1-8; 1-5f); D. McCormack; S. Harnedy (D. Brosnan); S. Bourke (0-2);  S. Moylan; B. O’Sullivan (0-2).

U.L.: T. Lowry; P. Stapleton; M. Walsh; C. Fogarty; L. Ryan; B. Bulger; P. Maher; L. Markham (J. Regan); M. Walsh (P. Walsh); B. Beckett (0-2); C. Donnellan (0-1; J. Gallagher 0-2); D. Butler (0-1; R. Cummins); J. Coen (0-2); M. Heffernan; C. McGrath (07; 0-3f).

Despite completely dominating the opening half – a half in which they spurned at least three clear cut goal chances – and being six points ahead at half-time UCC nearly managed to lose out to UL in the Mardyke today in an high quality Fitzgibbon semi-final.  U.L. managed to make a comeback thanks to the displays of Padraig Maher at center-back, Conor McGrath in attack and the numerous bad wides UCC hit in the second half. Indeed if it wasn’t for some strong rearguard back-against-the-walls play from the likes of O’Callaghan  and Egan UCC could have lost a game in which they should have been twelve plus points ahead at half-time. Finally, UCC looked completely drained – with numerous players cramping up – in the closing ten minutes, something C.I.T. didn’t display in a far less intense game.

For, U.L. it was very much a mixed performance. They should have been well behind at half-time – to be fair, Wadding was giving almost everything to UCC in the opening half – but lax UCC finishing in front of goal kept them in the game going into the second half. The move of Padraig Maher to center-back ensured UL began to properly dominate in the half-back line while the exceptional Conor McGrath terrorised the UCC defense with the help of Coen, Beckett and sub Gallagher. Moreover UL’s full-back line tightened up considerably after the break. However, UL pretty much never looked like getting the goal they badly needed and their closest chance in this respect was stopped by a last ditch Bourke block.

Similarly, UCC produced a mixed display over the two halves. At times scintillating in the first half, the movement of Moylan and Bourke in particular along with the finishing of Waterford’s O’Mahoney really took UL apart and with better finishing Moylan could have had two goals and Brian Murray one. In the second half UCC never really got going – however the half-back line of Barry/Fives/Egan was constantly strong throughout, Egan in particular winning numerous balls in the air and often driving forward, once even pointing from distance a ball he won well in UCC’s half. Elsewhere it wasn’t quite Seamus Harnedy’s day who, despite winning some good ball, hit numerous bad wides, a problem for UCC as a whole in the second half. Bourke, Moylan and O’Mahoney made up the threat up front for UCC, the first two working exceptionally hard from beginning to end and tracking back late into the game while O’Mahoney was excellent from deadballs and scored some sublime points from play. All in all though it was the performances of UCC’s half-back line and in particular that of William Egan that dragged them over the line.

The UL subs/scorers are a little off, I’ll sort them out tomorrow.

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