No great individual displays
AS WE write this on Monday morning we had been hoping, and expecting, to welcome home our All-Ireland winning heroes tonight, with the Sam Maguire heading for Bantry on Tuesday night.
It promised to be a hectic week. Who would the hero of this great Cork victory be and how many All-Stars could we look forward to? Mo léar. As I write now I am hard put to pick out a single player who had a good game or played up to the expected form on Sunday.
Why? Because psychologically we can't overcome the Kerry hoodoo in Croke Park and because this team was following in a far from proud Cork football tradition that has produced only six titles in 22 efforts. Cork teams don't produce the goods very often on this big day and there are lots of great ex-footballers walking around Cork today who have never won a Celtic Cross football medal.
The most disappointing feature is that the team picked Sunday last to give their worst performance of the season. Even against Limerick in the Munster final they never lost belief or shape and were able to strike at the end. On Sunday they were a sad, bedraggled set of players as the final whistle sounded, never looking like rescuing the game.
That must be the most hurting thing for players and mentors right now, that the team didn't perform, again. To play your best and be beaten by a better team can always be accepted, To play your worst football of the year in the final and still only lose by four points is a real gut-wrencher.
No part of the team can escape criticism for this defeat. The defence was all over the place when Kerry applied the pressure in the first half. Against Tyrone, Cork played great blanket defence, none of that was evident on Sunday, each player too taken up with trying to hold his own man.
Cork didn't know whether the Kerry players were going to launch long kicks into Tommy Walsh or run at them on strong solo-runs, so stayed off their men, giving them a vital two yards of space. All four of Tommy Walsh's points could have been prevented by tight marking.
To compound matters was the ridiculous fouling that presented Colm Cooper with six simple points. On the plus side was the clean sheet as regards goals but Kerry never looked for goals. Were they capable of getting one? Five out of ten for defence.
Kerry won this game at midfield where they really attacked Cork's strongest players for twenty minutes and dominated the game. Cork did dominate for the first ten minutes and the second half but could never create anything positive for the forwards. Once again Darragh Ó Sé was master of all he surveyed when it really mattered and that bugs all Cork supporters. 6 out of ten for midfield.
Cork could have won this game in the second half if they converted possession into scores. In the opening ten minutes the full forward line definitely had the ability to beat their markers but once the Kerry midfielders gained control, the Kerry backs were given time to settle down. The performance of the forwards in the second half beggared belief, totally aimless and clueless. Their inability to kick points was frightening and you don't win All-Ireland titles by kicking a single point from play in the second half. The half forward line in particular was anonymous and Counihan has a big job to do here in rebuilding. Four out of ten for the attack.
Overall, this was a most disappointing team performance in which the players lost all confidence in their game plan and really let themselves down. Five out of ten for the team performance.
Management must shoulder a lot of the blame for this defeat. When plan A failed up front, trying to work the ball in by short passing, where was plan B? Why wasn't Cussen utilised at full forward? Why was midfield and half forward lines left intact until half-time when utterly beaten in the second quarter? Why was Kieran O'Connor allowed to man the vital full back position? Why were the substitutions left so late?
What measures were taken beforehand to counter the Croke Park hoodoo against Kerry? Ignoring it was not the answer as seems to have been done. Where was the spark and fierce drive we saw against Tyrone? Did the team peak in August instead of September? Only management can answer that. Four out of ten for management.
We have avoided picking out a man of the match performer on the Cork side as there just wasn't one, not a single player bursting through to leave his mark on this final.
Alan Quirke (6) Absolutely nothing to save as Kerry never looked for goals. They knew their limits and played to them. Must take some responsibility for Cork being hammered on their own kickouts in the second quarter.
Michael Shields (6) Lined out at corner back on Tommy Walsh but conceded two vital points. Did make some good bursts forward in the first half but rarely did anything positive from those bursts. Was shifted around in the second half and could claim to be adequate on the day.
Kieran O'Connor (4) Drafted in for the injured Carey but was, unfairly, given the full back position and got a roasting from a flying Declan O'Sullivan before being replaced at the break.
Anthony Lynch (5) Poorest outing for a long time. Fouled repeatedly and got into the referee's bad books, conceding a few easy pointed frees to the Gooch. Was switched around in the second half before being replaced. Did prevent the Gooch from scoring from play but no excuse for all the pulling and dragging.
Noel O'Leary (6) Too taken up with marking Galvin to play his usual surging game. Allowed Galvin to pick up far too much possession, but did manage to get forward a couple of times in the second half.
Graham Canty (6) Most disappointing. Tried hard to rally the players and was physical as ever but badly beaten by Kenneally in the first half and never gained a dominant stance. It was a mistake to move him back but his marking all through was far too loose. Cork's captain was beaten and heads dropped as a result.
John Miskella (7) The only member of defence to show any touch of real form but was shifted all over the place. Rarely got a chance to go forward and again, being moved to the full back line negatived his contribution.
Nicholas Murphy (6) Had one good patch in the second half but once again had to give way to Ó Sé at midfield in Croke Park. His fine career has been defined by Ó Sé and his failure to physically respond to the illegal treatment he receives is disappointing. Far too quiet. It looks as if he will finish a fine career without a deserved medal.
Alan O'Connor (6) Again gave everything but his rawness was exposed by a Kerry midfield that knew exactly how to deal with him. Tried to get forward but was hammered in the aerial exchanges under Cork's kickouts.
Paddy Kelly (6) Started as if he were going to have a field day, and kicked a superb point, but that was the highlight of a disappointing display which saw him fade from the scene in the second half. He never threatened the Kerry goal in any way after the break.
Pearse O'Neill (5) Much was expected of the big centre forward but after an early burst he never figured. When his running style was needed in the second half to cut through the centre of defence, he was nowhere to be seen. Mick McCarthy had his number on the day.
Paul Kerrigan (5) Once again the Nemo man failed miserably to produce anything on the day. Covered back a lot but was rarely on the ball and never figured as an attacking force. Has he got what it takes for intercounty football?
Daniel Goulding (6) Looked to have the beating of his man early on but, again, was not forceful enough. Neither did he show enough to look for the ball. Did score four points, two from play against man of the match, Tom O'Sullivan. Nowhere to be seen in the second half when needed most and was replaced.
Colm O'Neill (7) Led Tommy Griffin a merry dance early on and his goal was a real cracker. Also scored a point but Griffin came to grips with him in the second half or was it that Cork stopped sending in direct ball to him? Definitely one for the future but too much was expected too soon from him.
Donncha O'Connor (6) Not a good year for O'Connor, although he did emerge top scorer for the season, most from frees, which were none too reliable. Did a lot of running, but much of it aimless. I counted three Kerry points that came from his failure to contest possession. Scored three points from frees but failed to score from play.
Eoin Cadogan (6) Brought on at half-time to mark Tommy Walsh but got caught for two vital points in the second half. Marking not close enough but wasn't too bad.
Fintan Goold (4) Brought on out of position at wing forward for Kerrigan but contributed very little in the closing twenty minutes.
James Masters got ten minutes at the end but only managed to kick one terrible wide while Michael Cussen only got five minutes and was anonymous around midfield.
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