BY KIERAN McCARTHY
LAST Sunday’s McGrath Cup semi-final loss to Waterford, while unexpected, isn’t causing Brian Cuthbert sleepless nights this week.
Yes, it was a shock. Yes, it was a disappointing performance. And yes, a lot more is expected from players when they don the Cork jersey, but the Rebel senior football manager just points to last season to highlight that winning the McGrath Cup doesn’t necessarily translate into championship success.
But he wants to see a response when the Dubs come into town for the Allianz Football League Division 1 opener on Sunday week.
‘It was disappointing. There’s no doubt about that. Every game we play we try to win. We just didn’t perform,’ Cuthbert lamented.
‘There were a lot of new players out last Sunday. They learned a lot and we learned a lot about them as well.
‘But it’s only the middle of January. This time last year we were flying and winning matches all around us but by the end of the year we were very disappointed with how it all turned out. I won’t mind if we lose that game last Sunday but our year goes a lot better than it did last year. That would be fine.’
He added: ‘For those guys who played last Sunday, if they get the chance to play against Dublin then we expect a big response.’
On social media, the shock of losing to Waterford in a competitive fixture didn’t go down too well with some Cork GAA supporters, but Cuthbert certainly isn’t despondent about the final result, citing that in the bigger picture the McGrath Cup provided three games in January to trial new faces ahead of the league throw-in next month.
‘That’s up to people themselves to make from it what they want but from the squad’s point of view we are not getting too carried away after last Sunday’s result,’ Cuthbert said.
‘Last year we won the McGrath Cup and there were no big celebrations. It is what it is. All we wanted this year was the four games it can offer. We got three, so we have to play another game ourselves this weekend.
‘Any team doesn’t want to lose a match but it happens and it’s not the end of the world. We will learn from it. We have had a lot of new players involved these past few weeks – some have played well, some didn’t play that well last Sunday but that’s the nature of the game.’
After this weekend’s challenge game, Cork will announce a league panel ahead of the opener at home to Dublin in Páirc Uí Rinn on February 1st.
‘Some of the new players have performed well over the last few weeks and have put their hands up and at the same there are a lot of experienced guys who haven’t been involved over the past few weeks but who are coming back,’ Cuthbert said.
‘Unfortunately we don’t have places for everybody and some people are going to lose out but our job is to pick the best players to represent Cork this year. Those decisions will be made over the next few days.
‘We are looking forward to the national league starting. Last year we had a good enough run in it. It’s a great opener to have Dublin at home and we are looking forward to playing the way that we know we can play.’