by Lar na Pairce
Cork v Donegal
Now that the dust has settled on Cork’s semi final defeat to Donegal it is time to take a dispassionate look at the teams performance and why again when confronted with a “ blanket defence” the 2010 All Ireland champions again resorted to lateral passing and failed to deliver the quick ball that is essential to overcome massed ranks of defenders.
In last week’s column we advocated a width and pace approach allied to the quick delivery of the ball to the full forward line.
Amazingly when this approach was adopted the Rebels seriously discommoded Donegal and a continuance of this would in this scribe’s view have resulted in victory. Ciaran Sheehan and Colm O’Neill in particular, and to a lesser extent Paul Kerrigan, all showed that pace allied to direct deliveries will unhinge even the tightest defences.
Colm O’Neill, twice plucked long balls from the clear blue skies and left his marker for dead.
His first shot cannoned back off the crossbar but he made no mistake the second time, albeit in stoppage time.
Ciaran Sheehan’s accuracy yielded three fine points while Kerrigan’s opening score showed that there is no answer to pace.
Unfortunately, Cork, especially in the second half, resorted to lateral hand passing, and apart from the two O’Neill incidents eschewed the long ball which played into the hands of the swarming Tir Conaill defence.
This was most galling as in post match interviews the Cork camp admitted that they knew Donegal would play exactly the way they did.
Given the success of Donegal this term some commentators have eulogised their new fangled approach and comment that the traditional approach to the game will no longer be successful.
Lar na Pairce begs to differ and wishes to state emphatically that the basis tenets of the game hold as fast today as they did when the association was founded.
Since time began, midfield dominance and securing breaking ball are the two most important attributes of any successful team regardless of what system they apply. Take Sunday for example and despite Donegal’s new fangled approach there win was based on Neil Gallagher’s virtuoso display in the middle allied to their half lines sweeping up the breaking ball.
Had Cork managed to win the midfield battle then Donegal’s system would have been redundant and they would not have triumphed.
Remember for most of the second half Cork were forced into short kicks out which meant their attacks started too far away from the opposition goal.
Had they been able to win at midfield then those attacks would have started much nearer the opposing goal and would have allowed Cork more time to deliver the quality ball that was required to unlock the massed defence.
No system can be successful without securing ample possession and Sunday, despite the eulogies, is perfect testament to this.
The basics still apply and a dominant midfield will secure most teams victory as has always been the case.
On Sunday Dublin and Mayo will do battle for the right to face Mayo in the decider. Five years ago the Westerners shocked the Dubs but then succumbed tamely in the final.
They looked good against Down last day out but the loss of Andy Moran will seriously inhibit their chances. They need a strong performance from Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran in the middle and Keith Higgins battle with Bernard Brogan will also be pivotal.
For their part, Dublin, have just done enough this year, apart from the Louth game and are either cruising through or have lost the hunger that saw them win out last year.
Nothing short of their best form will do on Sunday and if Alan Brogan is fit then there is an incremental improvement in their form.
Brother Bernard also needs to up the ante while more consistency will be expected from the enigmatic Dermot Connolly.
Should Denis Bastick and Eamonn Fennell win the midfield battle the Dubs will have one foot in the final. Given Mayo’s flaky form in big games, although they have recorded wins over Cork (last year) and Kerry (league semi –final), the loss of Moran may swing the tie in Dublin’s favour and set up a repeat of the 1992 final which Donegal won.
The Bandon premier intermediate hurlers gave another fine display with a 13 points win over Youghal to qualify for a final tilt against neighbours Ballinhassig at the end of September. Having won the intermediate title last year, Bandon are now just an hour away from attaining senior status, having last done so in 1974. Older readers will recall their 1971 junior county win over Ballinhassig that launched a golden era for the Lilywhites and they have every chance of repeating those heroics when they meet again in a few weeks time.
The big game of the weekend locally is the lash of Castlehaven and Newcestown in Dunmanway on Friday night.
Both teams have been inactive for nigh on four months and the lay off will certainly have an influence.
The ‘Haven will start favourites and rightly so as they bid to win a 4th title. The likes of Mark Collins, Brian Hurley and Seanie Cahalane are lethal and will expect to clock up the match winning scores.
Newcestown will most likely be without Barry Horgan, their free taker, and this will be crucial. Much will depend on Sean Ryan, Hugh Curran and the Keanes but the Haven are tipped to advance to meet the ‘Barrs in the quarterfinal.