00:00 Saturday 30 April 2011  Written by Noel Horgan

Pleased to win another national title

IN TERMS of what the summer has in store for both teams, Conor Counihan wasn't prepared to attach too much significance to the way things unfolded at Croke Park last Sunday.

The Rebel boss had just seen his weakened side produce a remarkable comeback to pip Dublin at the post and retain the NFL Division 1 crown. Yet, he was quick to hone in on the more negative aspects of Cork's display, stating it was a source of serious concern that Dublin had been allowed to build up an intimidating eight-point lead early in the second half.

'It's an issue that needs to be addressed, because, more than likely, we won't get away with it if it happens again,' he warned.

'We are obviously pleased to win another national title, but we didn't perform as well as we would have liked, and Dublin certainly had us on the rack at one stage. It can be difficult at times to hold on to a big lead, because fellas are looking at the finish line and focus is lost for a while.

'As well as that, we probably have a level of experience built up in the squad that can exploit that type of situation, and we are delighted with the way things worked out in the end today. To pull back such a big lead is great for morale, and it's also a major plus that we brought on a few new guys, and they were able to do a job for us.'

While making it clear he was happy with the result, however, Counihan dismissed the suggestion that it was a potentially crippling blow to Dublin's All-Ireland aspirations.

'We have been down that road before in terms of demoralising defeats, and we know it can either make or break you. It didn't break us, and Pat Gilroy has done a tremendous amount of work since he came into the Dublin job, so I wouldn't be suggesting for one minute that it will break them,' claimed Counihan.

Cork selector Terry O'Neill described it as a very satisfying victory, all the more since the fates appeared to be conspiring against the Rebels, and they had a lot of difficulties to overcome.

'We were minus three or four players going into the game, then we lost three players to injury before half-time, and in any football match when you'd go eight points down you'd be saying it was all over. But these boys have pulled back leads of that nature before in recent years, so there was always going to be a fair bite in them, and, fairness, they put in a massive effort to pull the game out of the fire.

'We had a huge mountain to climb, but we kept working hard, and once we got a few scores to get within three points of them, we knew the game was back in the melting-pot.'

O'Neill said that, with a number of last year's All-Ireland winning side ruled out, it gave other players a chance to step up to the mark, adding that the way the relative newcomers performed was one of the most encouraging aspects of the victory.

'There would have been an awful lot of people criticizing the likes of Jamie O'Sullivan who ended up winning the man-of-the-match award, and he had the bottle to go up and kick a point from corner back in the first half. Our big thing now is to finalise the championship panel, and Alan Quirke is nearly ready to go again.

'We are hopeful that Graham Canty will be at full throttle inside the next two weeks, though he might not come into the equation for the first round of the championship which is only four weeks away.

Anthony Lynch is trying very hard to come back, but it's a big step up, and we must be mindful of the fact that he hasn't played at this level since the All-Ireland final in 2009. It's important that every player on the panel must be capable of doing a job when called upon, and that's the faith we had in the players who were used today.'

Jamie O'Sullivan, who lined out in last year's league final and who remained on the starting fifteen until demoted prior to last year's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin, did his prospects of reclaiming a place on the championship side no harm at all with a sterling display at corner back. But the Bishopstown clubman, whose opportunity arose as a result of Eoin Cadogan's unavailability due to suspension, says he is fully aware that competition for places is very keen.

'I'm just looking to make the panel for the first championship match, and if I can get into the team, I'll be happy out.

'It was nice to retain the league title, and Dublin were always going to bring a savage intensity, but we knew if we stuck to our game-plan the cracks might start to appear as they tired. It was probably more satisfying than last year, because we went into the game kinda quietly, and all the talk was about the Dubs. The game was much closer to championship intensity than the final against Mayo 12 months ago, so it will be a lot more beneficial going forward,' he remarked.

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