Cork footballers host Cavan in Páirc Uí Chaoimh
MARK Collins is happy with how Cork have responded to their opening Allianz FL Division 2 loss to Tipperary, but insists that performance level still needs to improve.
Wins away to Down at home to Louth have put Ronan McCarthy’s side back in the promotion race, but ahead of Sunday’s home tie with Cavan in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (1pm), Cork star Mark Collins acknowledges that the latter victory wasn’t perfect.
‘The Tipp game was disappointing,’ he says, ‘obviously the result wasn’t what we wanted but we took a good few positives from it.
‘We built on them for the game against Down and that performance was encouraging, going up there has never been easy, they had won the week before and we were under pressure so getting the result was positive.
‘The display against Louth was a bit flat but we got the result. At least we’re sitting on four points after three games.’
Given that Down were the only team apart from Tipp to have won on the opening weekend, Collins admits that heading to Newry was a test. The fact that there are so many new faces on the panel provided a freshness, and the trip away helped to build a camaraderie.
‘Obviously, we were under pressure but we were looking forward to the challenge at the same time,’ he says.
‘We travelled up the night before and there was a good buzz around the place.
‘There are a lot of young guys and there’s a good bit of craic, maybe the spirits were a bit lighter going up there this time.
‘It was good result, getting the result obviously was the main thing. It was just disappointing that we didn’t build on the performance against Louth.
‘The few disappointing things were the basic errors we made, ball-handling skills and things like that.
‘That’s what the lads have worked on since day one, they homed in on our footballing skills. We had a lot of silly errors, missed frees, five-yard handpasses, that was disappointing.
‘We’ve tried to iron that out over the last couple of weeks.’
Physical mistakes come from mental errors, and the challenge is to minimise them.
‘A lot of it is focus, I suppose,’ Collins says.
‘We probably got a good start against Louth and in the head you’re thinking, “We’re home and hosed here,” which is never a way to be in a match, especially in this division, where anyone can beat anyone.
‘From the couple of errors, Louth built on that and, all of a sudden, from where you were nine points up, you’re in a game, only four points up.
‘You should never let yourself get into that situation, it was a bit of a battle in the end, which it shouldn’t have been.
‘They’re things you try to iron out.’
It’s not necessarily a new problem, but it has become a worryingly common one. Collins says that the team need to be able to deal better with situations when the opposition pick up momentum.
‘Over the last few years, we seem to have periods where we go into freefall,’ he says.
‘Instead of maybe shutting up shop for five minutes, we concede big scores. I remember it started against Dublin in league semi-final, we were eight points up and we couldn’t stop the rot that day.
‘It’s a bit of experience, we had a lot of new guys in the team against Tipp that day, maybe slowing it down for five minutes would have stopped them. I wouldn’t say the word is “cynical”, but just holding on to the ball, drawing a few frees, things like that.’