Thoughts on facing Cork next weekend

I went along to Croke Park on Saturday evening for the qualifier double-header, partly because I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms having been away for the few weeks but also because I knew there was a good chance that we’d be paired against one of the winners from the two qualifier ties. Having seen both matches, I felt that Kildare – now massively over-hyped, I reckon – would be the ideal draw for us while Cork were obviously the team to avoid. That alone should have told me how the draw was likely to pan out and that’s before you consider that it was a Corkman and a Kerryman who were playing with the balls yesterday evening.

No matter how you cut it, it’s a pig of a draw and the worst of the three we could have got. But, no more than poor old Wexford and that point-that-wasn’t-a-point against Limerick, what’s done is done. Cork it is next weekend and I’m sure James Horan and his team will be well into their plotting at this stage about how best to tackle this particular beast.

The Donkey Ayters were very impressive in beating Down on Saturday evening but the Mournemen made it very easy for them. The two goals they conceded were shocking from a defensive point of view and their backs as a unit were woeful, allowing Cork to run at will through them. After a bright opening, Marty Clarke quickly drifted out of the game and could well have walked far earlier than he did following a clash with Noel O’Leary. Cork’s point-taking in the second half was, to be sure, a sight to behold but Down had largely given up the ghost by then and most of those shots were leisurely, unpressurised ones.

We’re obviously being completely written off in advance for this match. I haven’t seen any odds yet but I’d be surprised if Cork were available at anything less than 1/6 or 1/7 and after the draw was made our odds on landing Sam drifted from 22/1 to 33/1. The lads on The Sunday Game last night repeatedly made reference to the upcoming Cork-Kerry rematch and the sole mention we got was Brolly’s sneering assessment that Cork will “wipe the floor” with us. Thanks Joe, we now know our place in the scheme of things.

In fairness to those who would write us off, our past performances at Croke Park haven’t exactly been hectic and it’s little more than a year ago that Cork did wipe the floor with us at HQ with that crushing defeat in last year’s league final. We also had that mad league match with the Dubs earlier this year but at least we made a game of that one.

Before that, you have to go back to 2009 for our last championship match there and, sure, if you go that far back you may as well keeping going back to 2004 and 2006. Both years saw us getting rightly clocked in the final but not before winning matches – against Tyrone in 2004 and the Dubs in 2006 – that all and sundry said we’d definitely lose.

The past is the past and it cannot be changed but this Mayo team – James Horan’s Mayo team – can’t be saddled with all the failings that have occurred when Mayo teams played in Croke Park in previous years. In this regard, it’s worth noting that only seven of those who started for us in that league final against Cork last year were also in the starting fifteen for the Connacht final, with that latter line-up only including six survivors from the team that started against Meath in 2009.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve moved on from then but, then again, it’s also true that there’s considerable uncertainty, given the way Connacht played out this year, among our own supporters as to what our true worth as a team is right now. It’s one thing coming under the radar from the opposition’s perspective, quite another that we should head into a match like this not having any great idea ourselves about how good we are.

No matter how you cut it, we’re really going to be up against it the next day. Cork are the reigning All-Ireland champions and have all the confidence that comes from their status as such. They’re big, mobile and have the kind of players who are capable of running up a large tally on the scoreboard. Our ability to shackle the likes of Donncha O’Connor and Paddy Kelly will obviously be crucial but we’ll also have to break up that running game of theirs, which will mean that the workrate required from everyone is going to be far higher than what they’ve had to give to date. On Saturday, John Miskella came from deep repeatedly in the first half and the first time he tries to do this the next day, we need to have him on his hole well before he reaches halfway.

Kerry’s first-half demolition job on them has to be the key to beating them. We’re no Kerry (yerra, in all fairness etc. etc.) but under James Horan we’ve become a team with an enormous appetite for gobbling up loose ball in the middle third. From what I hear, we won an enormous amount of such ball in the second half against Roscommon and if we can get stuck in early, break up their rhythm and get enough ball to feed our inside line, we might just be able to ask questions of them. This places a huge responsibility on our young full-forward line but it’s also a real chance for them to show what they can do on the big stage.

And it obviously goes without saying that being a second half team won’t do next weekend. If we go in at the break four points adrift like we did against Galway and Ros, there’s no way we’ll be able to keep the margin in single figures. We simply have to get in their faces from the off and stay there for the full seventy minutes.

It’s also enormously important that there’s a big Mayo crowd there. Given my absence from the Connacht final, I’m the last one entitled to preach on this point but Cork will have nobody there and we’ll have whatever neutral support there is. A large Mayo following would show that we mean business.

An honourable defeat to the reigning All-Ireland champions would be no disgrace and would mark a successful conclusion to James Horan’s first year in charge. A thrashing would, however, undo much of the year’s good work and so whatever happens the next day, we have to ensure that this isn’t the outcome. As we know from 2004 and 2006, a win when least expected is the sweetest one of all. It’s hard to see us pulling it off but The Sunday Game next weekend would sure make for enjoyable viewing if we do.

19 thoughts on “Thoughts on facing Cork next weekend

  1. I see they are doing Quarter Final-Semi Final Ticket Combos for the four provincial champions at €55 a pop, seats on the 45 in the Cusack. Hmmm.

    Mayo do indeed need to flood midfield as they did in the league match against Cork – force Cork to kick long, and cause uncertainty in their handpassing style. It also serves to isolate our full forward line inside, and the Cork full back line isn’t too hot. The spotlight will really be on our full back line – they’ll need to be Siamese twins to the likes of O’Connor.

    I wonder do season ticket holders get their section reserved for them as they did in the Connacht Final?

  2. Looking at the draw has anybody noticed this.
    Kerrys path to the All Ireland Final 2011 will be

    Kerry v Tipperary
    Kerry v Limerick
    Kerry v Cork
    Kerry v Limerick
    Kerry v Cork.

    Makes a mockery of the back door system. What a load of nonsense.

  3. Ya I’d hate to see Kerry win it easy!!!!
    Seriously tho that is totally ridiculous, and while the thoughts of playing Kerry gives me the willies quite frankly, I think we owe it to football to at least give them a bit of variety for the season!!!!

  4. Kerry in a semi is a totally different proposition to Kerry in a final, but wait, lets not get ahead of ourselves, we have to bate Cork first!

  5. Jim, thats just the way the draw went. It doesn’t make a mockery of any system, just shows the strength of Munster football and the randomness of sport.

  6. Digits, I wouldn’t describe any full-back line with Micheal Shields and Eoin Cadogan in it as ‘not too hot’. Two of th best inside backs in the country, easily. Eoin Cotter is showing decent form with them as well.

  7. Believe it or not i am looking forward to the cork Game.There are a lot of reasons to be positive.
    Down were very poor, their defence gave corks forwards loads of space, we will have to be seriously tight on Sunday.
    I know we did not learn much about the mayo team in the championship so far, but what we do know, is that they will work hard, and are determined. They have had to come from behind in all matches so far, this should add some mental toughness.
    We are also serious underdogs, no one takes us seriously, with everyone talking about a Cork v Kerry semi. That should be a real motivating factor for the team.
    For what its worth, we beat them in the league.

  8. I am looking forward to the game too albeit with some trepidation. It will certainly afford us the opportunity to find out where we stand. I cannot overstate the importance of this game and in particular not getting hammered.
    We need to pack the middle third (with big thick hardy bucks!) whose concern for Health & Safety (their own or that of the opposition) is minimal. Their mission must be to seek and destroy any attempt to run at us by putting them on their arses without ceremony.
    It might even be about taking ‘puke football’ to a totally new level (high or low depending on your perspective!)
    Ok so they are big feckers – strong and athletic too – even more reason for them to feel frustrated if they cannot impose their style on us. We need to do this because if we do not do soemthing unusual, spectacular, controversial, ugly or even brutal and if we attempt to do what we have done in the past then the outcome is utterly predictable.
    No better time than now to lay down a marker that if you are going to beat Mayo you will need to be brave – very brave indeed!
    I can already hear the purists cringe at these ideas but for gods sake look what being nice guys has done for us – turned us into a laughing stock among those who purport to speak with authority on matters football. Time for a change lads!

  9. Goulding has been ruled out of the game for Cork, O’Driscoll too.

    As for Sunday, let’s just give it a lash. Not much is expected of us (inside or outside the county), so lets play with no fear.
    From what I’ve seen so far of us under Horan, I can’t see us being humiliated if we were to lose the game. We don’t seem to let the heads drop easily.
    A positive attitude and determination has been the hallmark of this team so far, more of the same will be needed Sunday.

  10. Paddy Power have now posted odds for next weekend’s matches: Cork are on offer at 2/11 with us at 5/1. Might be worth a sneaky tenner or two …

  11. “Reasons to be cheerful”
    – We are given no chance, anything better than a 6 point bating will be considered good.
    – A performance of pride and determination, even if we lose will be seen as positive by ourselves and for those that care, the rest of the country. I’m pretty sure we’ll get that.
    – We are so written off that if we give Cork a fright at all we will have gone up in terms of esteem.
    – We beat them in the league, Limerick beat Wexford in the league and repeated the feat last weekend despite being underdogs.
    – We went into the 2004 quarters against the All ireland champions as complete underdogs and won!
    – We have no injuries that I know of. Conor Mort played yesterday and scored 2-4 or something for Shrule
    – we won the 2006 U-21 final against alot of these players
    – No matter what Conor Counihan says to them they will underestimate us. They will be looking towards the next match and a match up with Kerry.
    – Its a bank holiday weekend so we can all head to Coppers after the match!

  12. @ Turenne Cork full back line, all fantastic footballers (Cadogan wasn’t starting against Kerry), but they have been shown up as being dodgy under direct ball. It is an area that with the right delivery we can cause Cork damage, and lets face it, our half forwards will be caught up in a titanic midfield battle, so it will be THE area we will HAVE to come out on top to compete in this game.

  13. I know Cadogan wasn’t starting against Kerry – I was at the match. The reality is that Shields is the only player from the full-back line still around from the Kerry match, a half-fit Canty and unreliable Jamie O’Sullivan are both gone. Neither Shields or Cadogan are bad in the air – Cads in particular is very very strong under the high ball – and anyone who is judging our inside backs on the Kerry match is making an obvious mistake.

  14. With Goulding ruled out & his replacement also out that’s a 6-8pt swing i think we’ll cause a shock.

  15. Based on watching Cork over a number of seasons, and on the matches this season, in general they haven’t been good under the high ball despite their size – Sheehan was one of the only ones who could consistently field well, and he is missing now. A broad sweeping generalisation perhaps, but an area in which Cork don’t excel, therefore something we could take advantage of.

  16. The best of luck to Mayo on Sunday
    its always good to be playing the best
    It would be great to beat them.

  17. I have absolutely no idea why you think Cork are poor under the high ball – in fact, of all the things we are good at, winning ball in the air is surely right up there. But anyway, agree to disagree.

  18. Let me rephrase – for their size and physicality, they should be better at winning direct ball.

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