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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Little time for Cork to perfect system

Pat Hughes, Sligo, is put under pressure by, from left, Colm O'Driscoll, Michael Shields, and James Loughrey, Cork. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE
Pat Hughes, Sligo, is put under pressure by, from left, Colm O'Driscoll, Michael Shields, and James Loughrey, Cork. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

WITH Cork facing lowly Sligo, and unsure who their opposition might be should they win, they took a chance it might be Mayo and gave their new defensive set-up a dry run.

Mayo v Cork it is then but this will be a Cork model that few have seen in the flesh before. Their new defensive alignment has been practised surely for little more than a fortnight and so remains more a sketch than a plan. To use it again next Sunday, without further modification and/or practice will be high risk stuff indeed.

In defeating Sligo, Cork were decent enough, but not great. The use of double sweepers gives terrific cover to the full-back line but the transition phase from defence to attack will be the significant challenge. Scoring enough to win a major championship game is the single biggest problem a defensively orientated team faces.

You might suggest Cork did this excellently on Saturday night and you would be half right: 0-21, on the face of it, underlines a superb transition game. But when your defence concedes 1-11 (the Sligo average was 0-12) and your season top-scorer (Brian Hurley) is placed at centre-forward and fails to score, it means the system working properly.

Cork need time to work on it but they have potential. If they click up front can they can score heavily; Colm O'Neill and Paul Kerrigan are flying at the moment and Mayo need to limit their contributions.

And what of Mayo? Three weeks to prepare and eight days to look hard at Cork. Their focus was surely on getting their offensive game right. If this challenge can be solved Mayo will beat Cork; if it can't, then Mayo are vulnerable.

Ultimately, this is a Cork team at the beginning of their transition cycle versus a hardened, experienced Mayo team coming to the end of its natural life. Mayo to win.

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