Rebels need to tighten defence for Kildare trip

February 5th, 2023 10:00 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Cork manager John Cleary.

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JOHN Cleary knows his leaky Cork defence will need to tighten considerably if they hope to relaunch their Division 2 campaign on Sunday.

The Rebels travel to Newbridge to take on Kildare (2pm) with both teams having lost their opening games, Cork at home to Meath (3-14 to 0-19), Kildare away to title favourites Dublin (1-11 to 0-13).

If Cleary’s charges are to stand any chance of causing a shock on the road then there can be no repeat of the defensive frailties they showed in the 3-14 to 0-19 loss to Meath.

‘Conceding 3-14 won’t win anything,’ the Cork boss admits.

‘We have to look at how we conceded 3-14. Some of them were individual mistakes, some were good Meath play, and that’s what ultimately it came down to.

‘We can’t concede goals like that and expect to win these games.’


The Meath attack caused the Cork defence problems in both halves, bursting through too easily as highlighted by Shane Walsh and Cillian O’Sullivan’s solo efforts with barely a tackle laid on either Meath attacker. The vital second goal, scored by Jordan Morris, had its origins in an Ian Maguire turnover that was avoidable. Only Waterford (3-18) in Division 4 conceded more than Cork last weekend.

Cleary knows there’s work to be done to shore up that Cork back line, as Kildare will look to get their first points on the board in front of a home crowd. Then Cork, already on the back foot, play Dublin on February 19th so the early stages of this league campaign is front-loaded.

‘We always knew we had a tough start – Meath, Kildare and Dublin,’ Cleary says.

‘Looking at Kildare and Dublin (last Saturday night)they are very formidable sides. There is nothing we can do about (the defeat to Meath) but learn from it. All these games in Division 2 are going to be tough. 

‘Meath had a lot of pace around the middle, they got at our back line and we couldn't hold them out. It was a lesson for us and hopefully we can rectify it for next week.’

Cork also need more in attack. Steven Sherlock kicked 0-14 of their 0-19 against Meath, but only eight points came from play last weekend – and the Cork forwards combined to kick six points from play. The Rebels were over reliant on Sherlock and there was the unusual sight of captain Brian Hurley not scoring at all and being subbed ten minutes from the end. When Conor Corbett and Cathail O’Mahony return fully to the set-up, from their Sigerson Cup duties, that will help. The goal chances that did fall to Cork went to wing back Matty Taylor in the first half and midfielder Colm O’Callaghan in the second, with Sean Powter’s reactive follow-up to the latter stopped on the line.

Kildare pushing Dublin to a single point last weekend, and finishing the stronger of the two teams, is a warning to Cork: improvement is needed or they could be hosting the Dubs with no points after two games. 

Cork boss Cleary has confirmed that he won’t replace Ray Keane in his management team. Keane stepped back as a selector last month.       

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