Dubs crash lands while Cork shine
ALLIANZ HL DIVision 1A
FIGURE that one out. To be fair, Ger Cunningham struggled a bit
Jimmy Barry-Murphy put it down to those notorious old vagaries of the league.
Here were the two St Finbarr's men; former team-mates and managerial cohorts with Cork, reflecting on a game that made no real sense.
Dublin, who at one stage in Nowlan Park a couple of weeks ago (where, until quite recently, promising Dublin hurling team went to die) looked like they might put 30 points on the All-Ireland Champions, faced a situation where Cork might, had they continued their rate of first half scoring into the second on Saturday night in Croke Park, notched 40.
Dublin, who took out hurling's number one and two in their first two league games with the early season brio of a team not inclined to worry about the priorities of others, were swamped and destroyed by a Cork team who, on the competition's opening night, contrived to lose a home game to a scarcely recognisable Kilkenny side.
"Realistically, they let themselves down in relation to the performance on the pitch when they know, and we know, they're way better than that," shrugged Cunningham.
"And I think they showed that in the second half.
"The first half performance wasn't a realistic impression of how good a team they are.
"But you have to give credit to Cork. They racked up a lot of scores.
"And maybe some decisions as well that didn't go our way.
"But in the end, we can't have any complaints about the result,
Both teams have four points going into round four of the league but you wouldn't require a degree in psychology to decipher which go forth in a stronger frame of mind.
"The league's a bit like that," ventured Barry-Murphy.
"You get days when it just doesn't go for you.
"We were like that against Kilkenny, we were critical of ourselves and the public were entitled to be critical of us, and I think there are days like that in this league.
"You wouldn't expect to lose a lead like that, I expected Dublin to come at us, but when you get a lead like that it's very hard."
That lead to which both men refer was the 13-point advantage Cork had inexplicably compiled by half-time.
It went as high as 14 at one stage.
Principally, here you had one team playing close to their spring optimum and another, falling way, way below their own.
The result was ugly.
Cork's passing was inventive and sharp.
Their movement, particularly in the half-forward line, flummoxed the Dubs completely.
And at all times, their support play and ability to read breaks was at complete odds to Dublin's more ponderous offerings.
In fact, Dublin were the complete opposite.
"We had a lot of turnovers," admitted Cunningham, some of which amounted to Dublin players absent-mindedly passing ball to Cork men.
"The number of turnovers against us was way too high. Sometimes you must hold on to the ball and make right decisions.
"We gave away a lot of turnovers, a lot of ball. And we were punished."
There was worse.
Dropped shots, misplaced passes, aimless deliveries ... it was all there and all mysteriously contradictory to events in Parnell Park and Nowlan Park.
In Seamus Harnedy and Rob O'Shea, Cork had two ball-winners neither Peter Kelly nor Conal Keaney could compete with.
With Patrick Horgan and Luke O'Farrell, they had two inside men seemingly incapable of missing.
All of which opens a large can of worms for Cunningham.
Until now, his positional experimentations have mostly paid off to varying degrees.
But the fear that a Shane O'Donnell-style full-forward might cause Michael Carton greater trouble than a traditional lump of a target man was realised by the sprightly O'Farrell's siphoning of four points on Saturday night.
Kelly, perhaps Dublin's best players this year, did well in possession but struggled with the primary terms of reference for a number six.
Liam Rushe, meanwhile, bagged his now obligatory goal whilst simultaneously looking frustrated at his mostly peripheral role. "They're constantly under review," Cunningham explained.
"It's not a case that we're going to just leave a fella in there and forget about it. We'll go away and we'll analyse it and we'll reflect on it.
"I've said the same thing all year.
"I think guys need to play in different positions and not be pigeon-holed playing in just one position."
Reasons to be cheerful for Dublin were few.
In the ninth minute, David Treacy blasted a one-on-one straight at Anthony Nash when a goal would have levelled the match and could arguably have settled Dublin but Cunningham was left only to admire a small number of gutsy individual performances.
Shane Durkin had another fine game, firstly in midfield and then, after a general bamboozlement of the Dublin half-back line, at wing-back.
Paul Ryan was, despite not coming on until the 32nd minute, a genuine contender for Man of the Match, so central was he to the fairly flimsy honour of Dublin winning the second half.
And Paul Schutte was generally tidy at corner-back, keeping Alan Cadogan to a point, a not inconsiderable feat, given the surrounding circumstances.
"You prefer to find out in a different situation than that," added Cunningham when asked if, as the cliché goes, he learned any more from defeat than victory.
"Players will have to reflect on their performance as well."
CORK: A Nash; S O'Neill, C Joyce, C O'Sullivan; L McLoughlin, M Ellis, C Murphy; D Kearney, Aidan Walsh; C Lehane, S Harnedy, R O'Shea; A Cadogan, L O'Farrell, P Horgan. Subs: S McDonnell for Joyce (5 inj), B Lawton for Aidan Walsh (53), S Moylan for Cadogan (57), A Spillane for O'Farrell (60), Andy Walsh for O'Shea (65)
DUBLIN: A Nolan; C O'Callaghan, M Carton, P Schutte; C Crummey, P Kelly, C Keaney; S Durkin, N McMorrow; R O'Dwyer, E Dillon, D Sutcliffe; D Treacy, L Rushe, M Schutte. Subs: P Ryan for M Schutte (32), C Cronin for O'Dwyer (h-t), B Quinn for Keaney (h-t), D O'Callaghan for Dillon (58), C Boland for McMorrow (63)
SCORERS - Cork: P Horgan 0-14 (9f, 1 '65'), S Harnedy 0-5, L O'Farrell, R O'Shea 0-4 each, L McLoughlin, M Ellis, C Murphy, D Kearney, C Lehane, A Cadogan, B Lawton 0-1 each. Dublin: P Ryan 0-9 (7f), D Treacy 0-3 (1f), L Rushe 1-0, D Sutcliffe, N McMorrow, S Durkin 0-2 each, C Cronin, D O'Callaghan 0-1 each.
WIDES - Cork: 6 (5 + 1). Dublin: 10 (7 + 3).
BOOKED - Cork: 1 (McDonnell 60). Dublin: 2 (Durkin 42, C O'Callaghan 66).
REF: A Kelly (Galway).
ATTENDANCE: 27, 469
MAN OF THE MATCH: Patrick Horgan (Cork).