SOMETHING has changed in this Cork football team. That’s noticeable from the outside. Performances have improved considerably and that’s helped find better consistency. Inside the group it’s different to recent seasons too.
Tadhg MacCarthaigh’s Kevin O’Driscoll hasn’t seen too many good days since he’s been involved with the senior panel. Too many defeats. Too many days that you would rather forget. But the mood music has changed in the last couple of months. Performances and results have improved to the point that, for the first time for Cork, the Super 8s await, starting with Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday.
‘The talent was always there but it was only seen in spurts. A good performance was followed by a shocking performance,’ O’Driscoll admits.
‘Consistency is what we have always wanted to get and what we have worked for. We’ve pulled together as a group of players and we said it’s about time we stop talking and just get doing.
‘It’s after clicking for us. We have had those three good performances now on trot. We didn’t win against Kerry but we did here (against Laois).’
But what exactly has changed in this group to spark such a turnaround?
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact reason, the Caheragh man says, though, interestingly, he does make reference to a policy that the All Blacks employ to great success. It’s their policy which ensures everything is about the team and not about the individual.
‘Confidence comes from winning games but to win games something had to change,’ O’Driscoll explains.
‘As a group this year, everyone talks about this great bond, and I know that sounds like such a cliché, but it is there. There are no cliques. It’s 32 fellas all pulling in the same direction.
‘To quote a New Zealand phrase, no assholes is what they say. We have bought into that and it’s working for us.’
The results show a team going in the right direction. The wins against Limerick and Laois sandwiched the Munster final loss to Kerry, but it shows how far this Cork team has travelled in such a short time that they feel that’s a game they left behind them.
Their improvement has been rewarded with a spot in Group 2 of the Super 8s. Games against Tyrone in Croke Park and Roscommon in Páirc Uí Chaoimh follow this Saturday evening’s opener against All-Ireland champions Dublin. O’Driscoll can’t wait.
‘Getting to the Super 8s is massive. We are three or four years on the road now and underperforming – but we know as a group what we can do,’ he re-emphasised.
‘We put our shoulder to the wheel at the end of the league and I know people are talking a lot about these challenge games but they meant a lot to us, they gave us a bit of momentum.
‘Super 8s football is where we should be so it’s good that we are there now and we will drive on from here. You play inter-county football to test yourself against the best and there has been no better team at any stage than this Dublin team so it will be great to have a crack off them.’
Looking at the bigger picture, the Super 8s – and the three extra championship games against top teams – is exactly that this developing Cork team needs.
‘Three games at that standard is exactly the exposure that this team needs,’ O’Driscoll agrees.
‘There are a lot of young players, like Liam O’Donovan, Mattie Taylor, Mark White, that are playing awesome and these games will stand to them. For the older players, like myself, three good games without the results are no good to us. We want to push on now and get some wins in the Super 8s. It’s not enough to be there.
‘No matter what happens this year you could look back and say we have taken a step forward but we are not going to be happy with just taking a step forward, we want to get some results on the board and keep building momentum.’