herald

Friday 19 July 2019

Rebels might pay high price if they go for it

Memories of 'one that got away' in 2010 are overshadowed by that 2011 All-Ireland victory

REBEL THREAT: Michael Hurley in action for Cork against Laois during the All-Ireland SFC qualifier at Semple Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile
REBEL THREAT: Michael Hurley in action for Cork against Laois during the All-Ireland SFC qualifier at Semple Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile

It's funny how your memory of something can be completely skewed by what came after it.

Cork have crept back into the Dublin psyche this week but I had to go looking up old reports to remember anything about our All-Ireland semi-final in 2010.

Which is weird for a number of reasons.

We were punch-drunk after Kerry beat us in '09 and almost out for the count completely when Meath scored those five goals in the Leinster semi-final less than a year later.

Yet we crawled back towards relevance that summer with a couple of handy draws and then somehow managed to beat a Tyrone team that had caused us actual nightmares over the previous five years.

HEARTBREAK: Dublin’s Ross McConnell fouls Cork’s Colm O’Neill, which led to a penalty being awarded by referee Maurice Deegan as the Rebels advanced to the 2010 All-Ireland final. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
HEARTBREAK: Dublin’s Ross McConnell fouls Cork’s Colm O’Neill, which led to a penalty being awarded by referee Maurice Deegan as the Rebels advanced to the 2010 All-Ireland final. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile

Then we went four points up in an All-Ireland semi-final with less than 10 minutes to go.

2010 was my ninth year playing for Dublin.

That match with Cork was my fourth loss in an All-Ireland semi-final.

So I'm sure it stung but everything around that time now is filtered through the memory of 2011.

That year feels now like it was one of the last steps taken, the final lesson learned, before we won an All-Ireland, so maybe that's why I haven't any deep regret over it.

But considering we were in control of that match and committed a number of acts of self-sabotage in the final minutes, it should rank alongside the worst of all the near-misses when taken in isolation.

Particularly with Down waiting in the final.

Cork were a step ahead of us at that time.

We were getting closer and closer but lacked consistency and were prone to major lapses.

They were winning Leagues but had already suffered the horrible experience of being beaten by Kerry in the 2007 All-Ireland final.

They had a big, physical team and a bunch of top-class leaders and really, it doesn't make any sense that as a county, they fell so sharply from prominence so quickly.

It's impossible to replace a leader like Graham Canty.

Or even men of war, like Noel O'Leary or John Miskella or Nicholas Murphy or Pearse O'Neill.

They obviously put all their energy into winning that All-Ireland in 2010 but it's seven years now since Cork were in a semi-final and they've fallen down the divisions in the League.

But the recent signs are positive.

One of the tell-tale signs of a county struggling is a lack of continuity. Cork have changed manager too often and there were some calls for Ronan McCarthy to move on last year after just one season but that wasn't going to solve anything.

Inevitable

But it's probably inevitable when you get the sort of hidings Cork did last year at the hands of Kerry and Tyrone in the Championship.

Cork are fifth in the All-Ireland roll of honour. They've been in more finals than any county bar Dublin or Kerry.

They've won the fourth highest number of National League titles. So that's their rightful place.

Qualifying for the Super 8s is a huge boost but they've been handed a nightmare draw; Dublin and Tyrone in Croke Park in their first two games.

Obviously Brian Hurley has been their brightest spark this year. I watched him last week and he's bursting with confidence at the moment.

The 2-4 he scored wasn't even the most impressive part of his performance against Laois, it was the assist for Mark Collins's goal.

Hurley took two dummy solos and looked really composed inside the small parallelogram with defenders around him and then slipped a simple hand-pass to put Collins in.

It was a lovely move and indicative of a footballer with deep levels of natural skill and an innate awareness.

He's been around a few years and been very unlucky with injury but Hurley has the talent to be one of the best forwards in the game if this team continues in the right direction.

The issue for Cork here is they have built their revival around a strong running game and committing lots of bodies to attack.

They've scored 10 goals in three games (and probably should have had another couple in the Munster final) and have averaged 28 points per match in the Championship so far.

Which is great. But it's probably not the sort of game Dublin will mind playing against in Croke Park. If they leave space in behind, Dublin might rediscover their kicking game and they have the inside forwards to crucify Cork.

Against that, a week isn't enough time to implement a defensive system that hasn't been practised in training and honed in competitive games.

We all want to see teams having a go and show a bit of ambition and creativity and I wouldn't worry about Cork's ability to generate scoring chances on Saturday evening.

The problem for them is, against Dublin, it comes at an extremely expensive cost at the back.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News