Denis Hurley outlines five reasons why Rebels can be optimistic against Donegal on Saturday
Take a leaf out of the Tyrone book: We would assume that Cork had a managerial presence at the Ulster final a fortnight ago, when Tyrone showed how Donegal can be limited in their attacking effectiveness and ultimately beaten. While it’s a bit too simplistic to say that Tyrone out-Donegaled Donegal, there was more than a tip of the cap to the defensive style in how they played. Though an exact replica wouldn’t guarantee success, elements of the Red Hands’ game-plan, like the specialised man-marking of Michael Murphy, and swarming of men in possession, could pay off.
Give Kelleher options: Peter Kelleher scored Cork’s goal against Limerick, keeping up his impressive record of being involved in almost all of the green flags scored when he has been on the pitch this year. It was something of a solo effort though, and he won’t be able to do it all on his own against the ‘competitive’ (substitute your own less diplomatic word) McGee brothers in the Donegal full-back line. Pace in the form of Alan Cadogan and Michael Hurley off Kelleher would certainly provide something to think about.
Don’t be afraid to go for goals early: Linked to the above, but also something to bear in mind in terms of runners picking up possession coming from deep. Mayo showed in the 2013 and ’15 quarter-finals that early leads are something Donegal find hard to reel in. If Cork were to find the net in the game’s nascent stages, it would provide a valuable cushion and force the Ulster side to re-evaluate their approach.
Go long with the kickouts: Donegal like to push up and pressurise their opponents; Cork have Alan O’Connor and Ian Maguire at midfield, two men who can rise into the skies to pluck down balls. It’s unlikely that they will ever be cleaned out, breakeven is the worst that could realistically be expected. If they win possession and Cork have enough attacking players in position, it puts Donegal on the back foot.
Ultilise the bench well: With O’Connor and Maguire starting in midfield, the possibility of Aidan Walsh (named on the bench) coming in to provide fresh impetus in the last 20 or 25 minutes – assuming the game is still there for the taking – is a tantalising one. There are many who would argue that the Kanturk man is better suited to football and his ball-winning and marauding running style endorse this viewpoint. If Cork are to win this, we’d be very surprised if Walsh doesn’t have a part to play.