Former Cork forward says defences lack physicality
FORMER Cork star John Hayes says that the county lacks physicality in defence and ‘what was a bit of a gap is now a chasm’ between Cork and Kerry.
Following the 17-point defeat to Kerry in last Saturday’s Munster final, Ronan McCarthy’s side are awaiting Monday’s draw to see who they face for a place in the new Super 8s, but, while Hayes feels that a back-to-basics approach may prove fruitful for the Rebels, progression is far from guaranteed.
Two early goals failed to pave the way for Cork to properly challenge Kerry, who secured a sixth Munster SFC title on a 3-18 to 2-4 scoreline. While there was no denying the Kingdom’s dominance in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Hayes doesn’t think Cork made life difficult for them.
‘We know Kerry are good,’ he says, ‘but, unfortunately, Cork are developing a capacity to make them look unbeatable.
‘I don’t think any other top team gives them the same latitude. Cork have always struggled with Kerry, bar the late 80s/early 90s and again at the end of the 2000s, but what was a bit of a gap is now a chasm.’
Cork trailed by 1-11 to 2-1 at half-time, having failed to score in the final 25 minutes plus stoppages in the first half, and Paul Geaney’s goal for Kerry on 37 ended any hopes of a fightback.
A lack of defensive physicality was fatal, Hayes believes.
‘Hindsight is always 20-20,’ he says, ‘but I think Cork would have struggled to win no matter how they played.
‘You could have gone damage-limitation but looking at the teamsheet, Cork’s better players were in the forwards and it was the same in terms of the subs.
‘At the back, we have some very good footballers but there is a serious lack of physicality and experience, apart from Jamie O’Sullivan, of the six that started.
‘Maybe you could have done with withdrawing two or three extra bodies, but then Cork had a plan to go at Kerry early and that worked with the early goals. Right now, we just don’t have the calibre of defender to shut things up, and Kerry were well on top in midfield.’
Cork can still bounce back, but Hayes accepts that it won’t be easy.
‘When I was playing, we often lost to Kerry but we were never a million miles off them in Munster,’ he says.
‘The closest situation to this is 2014, when they won by 12 points in the last game in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
‘For the qualifiers, we went back to the drawing board and a defensive system against Sligo, it was just about getting the job done. Then, in the quarter-finals, we weren’t too far off beating Mayo.
‘Cork have to go back to basics and it’s almost a case of having nothing to lose. Obviously, a lot depends on the draw, the likes of Mayo, Tyrone or Monaghan would be very hard to beat.
‘The biggest issue is which Cork will turn up. It’s not a case of “If Cork perform, they’ll win,” it’s a case of, “If Cork perform, they’ll compete.”’