BY KIERAN McCARTHY
IF Cork find themselves eight points up against Dublin in Sunday week’s Allianz Football League Division 1 final, they will be better equipped to kick on and win this year, according to Rebel boss Brian Cuthbert.
The two football heavyweights go toe-to-toe in this year’s Division 1 decider on April 26th in Croke Park, and this game will inevitably draw comparisons when the two met in last year’s league semi-final – a game that Cork led 2-9 to 0-7 at half time before going under 2-20 to 2-13 after a stunning Dublin second-half performance.
But Cuthbert is keen to point out that his Rebels are a different proposition now than they were 12 months ago, and are a year further along in their development.
‘You’d like to think that we have moved on from last year. The league for 2015 is now over, bar one game,’ Cuthbert told The Southern Star.
‘If every team is going to keep looking back at last year, I don’t think that is a very wise thing to do. It’s best to move forward, and we are.
‘We have had a tough league campaign and we have come out the other side of it, but there is a complete realisation on our part that it’s still only April, and regardless of what happens against Dublin we have a lot of work to do ahead of the championship.
‘Any games that we have played over the last year or so, it’s the learning from these games that’s important. If we find ourselves in a situation where we are ten points up against Dublin then you would like to think that we would react differently then we did last year.’
With eight weeks left until Cork’s Munster championship semi-final, at home to either Clare or Limerick, Cuthbert sees this next game, albeit a league final with a trophy at stake, as another step in terms of preparations for the provincial series.
‘It’s an ideal game and a wonderful way to prepare for the championship. It’s going to be a hard game against top-class opposition in Croke Park, and it will be difficult to win it – but that’s just the challenge that we want,’ the Rebel manager explained.
‘We are still a good few weeks away from when we play Clare or Limerick so it’s a much better situation then we found ourselves in last year when we lost that game to Dublin and then had to wait eight, nine weeks before we played Tipperary at home in the championship.’
Reflecting on the manner of the 4-11 to 0-19 win against Donegal in the semi-final last Sunday in Croke Park, while there are positives – and we’ll get to them soon – the concession of 0-19 to a Donegal team that wasn’t running at full tilt has to be a concern. It is, agrees Cuthbert, and it won’t do against Dublin either.
‘That was a lot of scores to concede and if we are to have any chance against Dublin there is no way that we can give away 19 points,’ he stressed.
Back to the positives, on a day that saw Cork breach the famed Ulster blanket defence to score four goals to beat last year’s defeated All-Ireland finalists.
‘Regardless of what Donegal have done or what their approach was, that doesn’t matter, but we created a lot of chances,’ Cuthbert said.
‘We didn’t take enough of those opportunities, to be honest with you, and we want to see a higher percentage of those chances taken against Dublin on Sunday week. That rate of efficiency should be quite high, and we were disappointed with the chances we missed against Donegal, but still, 4-11 is a good return.
‘The experience of getting to Croke Park will stand to us because we have a good few players who haven’t grown up playing there, so it’s always good to get a feel for the stadium. That’s important.
‘Another plus is that we have another game before the Munster championship.’