Dublin 'as defensive as anyone' reveals Cork's Mark Collins
TWELVE months ago, Dublin and Cork met in a crazy Allianz Football League semi-final that incorporated a 17-point turnaround and a combined scoring tally of four goals and 33 points.
On Sunday week, these familiar spring rivals will meet again – this time in the Division One final – but don’t be surprised if there’s no gung-ho repeat.
Why? Because Cork have been compelled to embrace the new defensive consensus, the era of half-forwards doubling as sweepers ... and also because Dublin have gone down a similar route, according to Cork’s Mark Collins.
“It’s the way that everyone is gone really. The likes of Kerry and Dublin were the architects of free-flowing football – and they are as defensive as anyone now,” the Castlehaven man maintains.
“That is the way that football has gone, unfortunately, and you have to play that way. We set up a bit defensively (against Donegal) but we still scored 4-11, so we are still attacking in numbers.”
Collins wore No 14 on Sunday but wasn’t the first cousin of a full-forward. Whenever Donegal won possession, he could be seen filtering back to take up position as a defensive screen in front of his full-back line. And when Cork regained the ball, he doubled as link man to a less-crowded attack where Colm O’Neill and Brian Hurley formed a deadly inside double act yielding three second half goals.
“Football has gone that way,” Collins reiterates. “You might have only two or three forwards and we know that, with Brian and Colm, you have to get the ball to them and they will do the business for us. It is up to the rest of us to work as hard to get it for them. It is enjoyable anyway when you are winning.”
Far less enjoyable was last year’s league semi-final, one that veered from Cork cakewalk (leading 2-11 to 0-7 shortly after half-time) to Rebel hell (losing by 2-20 to 2-13).
Collins agrees with his manager Brian Cuthbert’s assessment that the manner of last year’s semi-final defeat derailed Cork’s season.
“It probably did,” he reflects. “It knocked our confidence a bit. We were flying through the league, we gave a great first half display up here – but we fell apart completely.
“From there on, even through the break to the championship, we never regained that confidence. We let ourselves down big time in the Munster final and we never regrouped, so hopefully we can kick on from here now.”
This starts on Sunday week, when Dublin should provide a serious litmus test.
“It’s very early on in the year and we have a lot to prove. We conceded a big score (Donegal tallied 0-19) so we have a lot to work on,” Collins warns. “But there is nothing wrong with winning matches, and we are in a national final ... it really is something to look forward to.”