herald

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cats show claws and the blood flows... welcome to championship

'What in hell's name is wrong with Cork football?' Stock photo: Sportsfile
'What in hell's name is wrong with Cork football?' Stock photo: Sportsfile

Today we are happy to report that Championship 2016 was officially launched last weekend. Meanwhile, we must apologise to any out-of-pocket ticket fans who, over the past month, bought tickets in the misapprehension that they would be attending the real deal.

You'll know next time ...

This column is not suggesting that the Saturday and Sunday just gone was an orgy of entertainment to leave Euro '16 in Le Place de la Halfpenny ... but at least it felt like a 'proper championship weekend'.

To qualify for that you need one earthquake (in Thurles) and one salutary lesson for an All-Ireland pretender (Dublin hurlers), while a couple of disciplinary schemozzles are always welcome.

We had the lot. But where to start?

KILLER CATS ...

. . . and Sky Blue kittens. That was the most disappointing facet of this would-be rumble in the Portlaoise jungle. It's not that Dublin were timid, per se, o r that they lacked for effort - clearly they were trying.

But you need far more than that against Kilkenny. Dublin were far too flat, too passive, too cumbersome of first touch, to live in the suffocating company of the All-Ireland champions.

Surely they knew what was coming? For all the occasional vulnerabilities displayed by Kilkenny, Brian Cody's record of getting his team up to summer intensity, time and again, is beyond reproach.

If Dublin had a plan, it unravelled totally after half-time. But if they are to revamp themselves for a sustained 'back door' run, Ger Cunningham cannot ignore the ball-winning and possession retention problems so manifest here.

They won't always face a half-back line so dominant in the air as Kilkenny's, or a roaming corner-back so voracious as Paul Murphy, or a collective work ethic that shrinks the dimensions of the pitch so thoroughly ... but if you want to consider yourself as genuine contenders, this is the level you must at least aspire to.

INCORRIGIBLE CORK

Hats off to Tipperary, who have made a mockery of the notion that having half your putative team in America or Australia or your hurlers' dressing-room guarantees only heartbreak.

But just as big a story involves our recalcitrant Rebels. What in hell's name is wrong with Cork football?

A county that should be perennial contenders (based on player numbers and underage pedigree alone) is held back by this maddeningly erratic streak. And a team that has dabbled with sweeper systems over the past two seasons is still liable to leak 4-25 (to Roscommon in the league) and now 3-15 (to Tipp).

RUAILE BUAILE

Donegal's Neil McGee faces a doubled-up two-match ban for his red card against Fermanagh, one that could derail Donegal's latest Ulster quest. It was so clearcut that you must wonder what Rory Gallagher was thinking when he said: "Neil is adamant that he heard a whistle for a free out and then he kind of shrugged his man off."

Meanwhile, Westmeath's Kieran Martin was so emphatically 'shrugged' - after a post-final whistle flare-up in Mullingar - that you would struggle to see his rearranged nose for all the pumping blood. Martin wasn't a completely innocent party but that's hardly a valid excuse for his Offaly assailant, who might be better off pleading the defence that this was a 'proper championship weekend'.

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