CORK football captain Ian Maguire feels that it’s important for the team to absorb the lessons of last year’s Munster final defeat to Tipperary.
By the time the 2021 football season begins, it will have been at least five or six months since the defeat, with no chance for Cork to exorcise the demons. Maguire has analysed the game as part of the cleansing process and he is keen to get back on the field and put things right.
‘I am always a believer when you lose games, you always watch the video,’ he says.
‘It took me two weeks before I properly watched it back. I did the usual process I think is a normality for all players now – delete the Twitter, delete the Instagram. You just don't want any association or you don't want to see anything with it. It is just not easy. You fall off a cliff after you lose a championship game. Everything is going normal, you lose a championship game and you're like, well, the season is over, what do I do now.
‘For me, I watched the game back. We under-performed, there's no two ways about it. You’ve got to put your hand up, better team on the day won. They came with better intensity, they did a few things on the day. They did their damage, they deserve their win. Tipperary are a team I'm all too familiar with, at underage and at senior level now. It has been a tough process.
‘In other years, when you lost a championship game, you went back to your club or, say for Cork, you'd be getting in preparation for the McGrath Cup and league. This year, we lost to Tipperary and I am in February now and I have nothing. I feel like I haven't had an opportunity to right the wrongs of the Tipperary performance. From a player’s perspective, it is very tough because I feel I have the lingering of regret from the Tipperary game and I haven't had an opportunity or distraction to focus on.
‘This loss has been tough. There is no point hiding away from it. I've been a part of some bad losses and this was another one, it was a missed opportunity, as it is every year when you don't get to an All-Ireland semi-final or All-Ireland. This year has been particularly tough because, personally, I haven't had a chance to right my wrongs.’
How did it feel watching Tipp then lose heavily to Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final?
‘I will tell you a funny story,’ Maguire says, ‘I have never gone to a county final after we have been knocked out of the county championship and I did not watch the Tipperary-Mayo game live because I tend to take losses pretty bad so I give myself time.
‘I watched back that Mayo-Tipperary game but I watched it back not because what Tipp did or didn’t do, I watched it back to try and learn different things that Mayo and Tipperary did, like kick-outs, what did Mayo do that we didn’t do. You can use that term regret but ultimately I have regrets about Cork’s performance but what happened afterwards in the competition you try and take learnings as a player and as a team.’
Given how much of a blow the Tipp loss was, it would be understandable if Maguire and the Cork team felt that the Munster semi-final win over Kerry counted for nothing.
He is of the view that the positives can’t be forgotten, but also makes the point that beating the Kingdom cannot be the be-all and end-all.
‘For me personally, I have had a couple of battles with Kerry over the last couple of years,’ he says, ‘my direct man has been David Moran since 2016 and I suppose beating a big team is always a big step for a team if they want to make it towards the later stages of the competition so beating Kerry was beating a big team as well as rivals.
‘For me it was a big championship game and it was a championship win and you can’t take the highs too high or the lows too low but I tend to take the lows more extremely than the highs.
‘Beating Kerry was nice because we went in as underdogs coming from Division 3 and on a personal level, I felt we left the 2019 Munster final behind us. There were mistakes made in the first ten minutes and in the latter stages that basically left us throwing the game away and 2020 was nice and even though it was a last-minute goal, we did not make the same mistakes that we made in ’19, because I thought that was a real missed opportunity.
‘It is all about moving on now, you can’t think about what happened in 2020, about what you did or what you didn’t do and learn the lessons.
‘It was nice and it was a nice moment for a lot of players because I was there in 2017 and 2018 after bad losses to Kerry where you felt like that they were not that far ahead of us but why did the scoreline not dictate that and why am I chasing shadows so it was nice to have that win, that notch on the belt after beating Kerry.
‘But, as a Cork footballer you are in it to win Munsters and All-Irelands, not to beat Kerry. If that is your focus, you are in the wrong dressing room.’