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‘Exposure to the top teams will help Cork,’ insists Taylor

May 17th, 2024 9:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

‘Exposure to the top teams will help Cork,’ insists Taylor Image
Matty Taylor has become an ever present for Cork in recent seasons. (Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

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JUST like he navigates himself cleverly around the pitch, Matty Taylor applies a similar approach to his commute from Mallow to Mahon for work. He knows the pinch points – think school drop-offs and peak-time traffic – and avoids them, and plans the most efficient route from home to the city.

‘I’ll head to the office the days we are training, and align it with training,’ says Taylor, who works as an engineer with Jacobs in Mahon.

‘I’ll go through the city, the Boreenmanna Road, get into the office a bit earlier in the morning and then with training in the evening I’ll miss the heavy traffic and head home a bit later.’

His plan works, taking any frustration out of a commute that he enjoys and has been making for years, even back to his college days in MTU Cork. It’s a 40-minute drive he puts to good use, giving him that separation from a tough training session or a hard day at work and allowing him to process it all before he lands home. So how was the drive home from work in the days after the Munster semi-final loss to Kerry last month? While Taylor admits there was ‘regret’ within the Cork group with their performance in the 0-18 to 1-12 loss in Killarney, how they manage that regret is important.

‘The way the management group has reviewed games, it’s all about the learnings from it,’ he says.

‘You certainly can’t carry it with you to the next game because it’s a new challenge and a new opportunity to go out to perform. You have to take the learnings from those experiences and games, to try and improve and better yourself for the next day. It’s like with the league, if you are carrying emotions from the previous week it’s not going to help you in any shape of form in terms of performance.

‘It’s very hard to correct everything, but you need to keep learning and developing. It’s about exposure, and then learning from the situations and experiences you are in.’

Taylor is switched on, and given his approach it’s easy to understand why he has become such a mainstay of the Cork half-back line. He’s one of the older players in the team at 30 years of age, but there’s a freshness and energy to the Mallow man. A maturity too. He enjoys his job as an engineer as it’s the polar opposite of sport so it allows him to switch off from football; that’s important. His approach to training, nutrition and recovery has – touch wood – kept him injury free, to allow him to become an ever-present for Cork, starting all 21 of the footballers' championship games in the last five seasons. He also understands the importance of the Rebels’ Sam Maguire group-opener away to Clare in Ennis this Saturday evening (6pm) as a game to set the tone for the Ulster tests to follow.

‘How last year transpired, getting that first win against Louth gave the group energy and confidence, and it sets you up nicely for the following two games. The first game is our sole focus, to get a performance out of the group and hopefully two points on the board,’ Taylor says, but it won't be easy. When the teams clashed in the Munster SFC last season at Cusack Park, Clare knocked Cork out, 0-14 to 0-13. The week before last, the Banner men didn’t shirk in the Munster final against Kerry, putting up a good show in Ennis, as impressive as Cork’s against the Kingdom in the previous round. That Cork left Killarney that Saturday evening with regret is an insight into the mindset of this group. They’re still not at a level to take down one of the big guns, but exposure to football at that level will help, Taylor insists.

‘I felt our offensive play was quite strong in the first half, we had been creating a lot of goal chances in the league but not finishing them, but when we got our goal chance against Kerry, Paul Walsh took it really well. The first half was pleasing but equally there were aspects we weren’t happy with. There is a good bit of regret around the performance, that’s the general consensus,’ the Cork defender says as he targets a championship run like last season – the Rebels got through to the last eight after three wins in five games, including wins against Mayo and Roscommon. But is the Cork team now in a better position compared to this time last year?

‘The group is in a good place,’ he insists. ‘Look across the league, players who might not have got a lot of minutes last year got game-time this year, so as a panel we are developing well and we have options across all positions, which is important.

‘We have probably been lacking that consistency throughout, particularly against the top teams, that is a focus for us as a group as we evolve and develop, to learn how to be better and close out games too.

‘The overarching feeling of the group is that we enjoyed the experience of last summer and getting to Croke Park, but we want to get a reward out of this too, and that’s a focus from the group. But we can’t look too far beyond the first round game.’

Saturday’s group opener will set the tone for the tests against Donegal and Tyrone. Beat Clare, and Cork will be up and running, and will mean Taylor’s commute to and from work remains a stress-free journey all next week.

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