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COMMENT: No excuse for Cork hurlers not having a Plan B when Plan A fails

April 23rd, 2022 6:15 PM

By Tom Lyons

Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins under pressure from Limerick duo Cian Lynch and Kyle Hayes during the Munster SHC clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. (Photo: George Hatchell)

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BY TOM LYONS 

THERE’S a lot to be said for having a Plan B up your sleeve when Plan A isn’t working.

Following on from the All-Ireland final and the league final hammerings, one wonders where this Cork hurling team is heading or if they have learned anything in the past 12 months under the present management. 

Last Sunday’s demoralising loss at home to Limerick is the latest setback.

When one repeatedly keeps doing the same thing, hoping for a different result, then one has to seriously question those behind the decision-making. 

The Cork management has a clear Plan A for this hurling team, that is a short-passing, fast-running game to suit the abilities of the players. Nothing wrong with that if it really works but when it doesn’t, what then?

The Cork style does not work against hard-hitting, physically stronger teams like Limerick and Waterford, yet, obviously, the Cork management just don’t have a Plan B when playing these teams. 

Last Sunday Cork tried to get their running game going against the All-Ireland champions. When Shane Kingston rattled the net within seconds of the start, the Cork supporters in a crowd of 35,000 were in dream land. More like cuckoo land. 

The hopes that Limerick’s poor league form might still be afflicting them as they went in search of the three in-a-row were soon blown out of the water as Cork once again found themselves thumping their heads against a wall of green shirts in the shape of the Limerick midfield and half-back line.

Playing with a gale of wind, Cork never used the elements to their advantage as no direct balls were driven into the full-forward line. Instead, Cork continued to try to run the ball through the Limerick iron wall and, again and again, were stripped of possession by the Limerick men who were hunting in packs. The damning statistic that 2-16 of the Limerick total came from turn-overs says it all about Cork’s tactics on the day.

Why didn’t Cork have a Plan B when Plan A was clearly failing again? 

To play a long-ball game you must have forwards that are not only capable of winning the 50-50 ball but are also capable of creating space for the outfield players to aim at. Time and again on Sunday when the Cork backs won possession, they looked up hoping to see a forward loose up front but the movement in the Cork forward division was almost nil and there was nobody to aim at. Result? Another turn-over and another Limerick score.

This lack of movement in the Cork forward line comes down to a few things – lack of work rate, for which this Cork outfit has now gained an unwanted reputation, and poor coaching. 

Cork’s work rate off the ball has always been a problem with this bunch of players, especially the forwards, and the ease with which Limerick players were allowed to shoot for scores without a finger being laid on them was frightening. 

Cork have conceded 6-44 in their last two games and surely management can’t continue playing to a system that is responsible for that. Over half those scores came from turnovers that are caused by defenders and midfielders trying to handpass their way out of their own half of the pitch. 

Surely Plan B must be direct clearances by the defenders to the forwards and no short passing except in emergencies. Plan B will also require finding six forwards capable of winning their own ball and who are prepared to work their backs off to prevent opposing defenders from clearing easy ball. 

This is what Limerick are doing to the Cork backs and until we do exactly the same, then we can forget about ever beating teams like Limerick in big games.

 

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