Monday 18 December 2017

Cork change style and quickly turn focus to Mayo

Cork's Aidan Walsh (left) and Michael Shields contest a high ball with Sligo's Pat Hughes. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Cork's Aidan Walsh (left) and Michael Shields contest a high ball with Sligo's Pat Hughes. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Cork manager Brian Cuthbert is pleased where his team are at despite a mixed bag against Sligo in their 0-21 to 1-11 win over Sligo in the All-Ireland SFC Round 4A qualifier at O'Connor Park, Tullamore.

Following the chastening experience that was the Munster final defeat to Kerry, the Rebels boss made six changes to his starting line-up.

It didn't stop there though, with Cuthbert also realising that the open approach that served them well in the National League would not do if they were to make an impression in the later stages of the Championship.

They operated with four forwards, with wing-forwards Colm O'Driscoll and Mark Collins dropping deep into their own territory to help out the defence that was so ruthlessly torn asunder by Kerry.

Indeed, Cuthbert acknowledged the pressure they were under to get back on track.

"To get back to Croke Park on the Bank Holiday weekend, that's all we wanted to do,' he said. "Whatever way we got there, it didn't really matter. Our confidence, our character - everything really about us was questioned.

"This doesn't erase that because our performance was so poor the last day. But we came with a bit more desire, a bit more intensity than we did against Kerry and played well at times. We were under so much pressure coming into this game - we had to win it by hook or by crook."

It's not easy to make such drastic changes midway through the campaign, so Cuthbert was pleased with how his players adapted.

"It worked well for us. We put in a lot more protection and cover at the back. Disappointed we gave away the goal because if you have a system like that, you shouldn't be giving out goals.

"We're very happy where we are."

The prize? A mouth-watering clash with Connacht champions Mayo. At the outset of the Championship, both teams were cited as the main challengers for Dublin's crown, but Cork's stock has dropped dramatically since.


"If you ask people, after Dublin, they're probably the team with Kerry," Cuthbert continued. "It's going to be a huge ask for us but it's nothing that I don't expect my guys to raise themselves up to. Anyone playing an All-Ireland quarter-final, if they're not going to give themselves a chance they're wasting their time.

"Certainly we'll be going in there as underdogs and that suits us fine."

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