Wednesday 17 January 2018

Once bitten, twice shy for Rebels

Cork manager Brian Cuthbert
Cork manager Brian Cuthbert

A League semi-final isn't the sort of seasonal juncture at which a manager would customarily arrive bearing any great sense of trepidation and nor is it the time of year a Championship push might spin wildly out of control but Cork's experience in 2014 dictates otherwise.

A year ago, like now, the Rebels arrived to Croke Park atop Division 1 after a progressive spring.

Ten points up on Dublin and coasting to a second victory over the then All-Ireland champions in Croke Park in just over a month, Cork imploded and lost by seven.

"Seventeen minutes of madness is one way (of looking at it) and unbelievable play from Dublin in another," recalled manager Brian Cuthbert in conversation with The Herald.

"It derailed us a bit. And certainly in the Munster Championship, those ghosts came back to haunt us. But the big thing is to move forward. It's a new season, a blank canvass.

"And once you don't make the same mistakes twice, you're learning. But you can't guarantee that either. Football is football.

"It's important for us that we move forward from last year," he insists.

"And the way to do that for us is to go one step further and make sure 2014 doesn't repeat itself in 2015.

"That's what you'd be attempting to do anyway. But it's very important that we do move forward. The past is in the past. The lessons are learned. We learned a fair few lessons and we're going to learn some more.

"Sport is like that. Once we don't make the same mistakes is the big thing."

Preventative measures have thus been taken.

When Cork beat Dublin in Páirc Uí Rinn in the first game of this year's League, Jim Gavin remarked how his team had come up against a "very defensive-minded" opposition.

Once bitten, and all that.

"Plenty of people will say that football is a copycat game in lots of ways and it is," Cuthbert points out.

"After Dublin won the All-Ireland in 2013, Division 1 - certainly last year - people went out and played the same way.

"There were open games and open football and there were plenty of scorelines of 2-20 to 3-16 - that kind of thing. And that wasn't realistic when it comes to Championship.

"And then you have the All-Ireland final last year. Kerry and Donegal. And the League has kind of mirrored that game to a certain extent.

"And definitely, Division 1 was different to how it was last year.

"But somebody is going to work out how to play against the blanket system. I have no doubt about it. If you look at football and the bigger picture, if you ever look at All-Ireland Gold on TG4, you see a very different football played in the 1980s and mid '90s.

"But I think Cork played Meath in one final in 1990 and it was ten points to seven and nobody was talking about the end of the world. Nobody was talking about the death of football.

"That's the nature of the game.

"It's cyclical," Cuthbert adds. "It will be fashionable to play some other way soon."


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