Write off this season for more long-term gain
Not what any Cork fan wants to see or hear, but getting people to accept that there is no quick fix is part of a more permanent improvement. Cork obviously can’t win Munster after Sunday and we would be willing to bet quite a lot of money that Stephen McDonnell won’t be on the steps of the Hogan Stand in September, hoisting the Liam McCarthy Cup.
Tottenham Hotspur fans are convincing themselves that it doesn’t matter that they collapsed and finished third behind Arsenal because neither side got a trophy, but a case could be made that it hardly matters if Cork lose in the qualifiers or limp to an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final, where another large defeat may be experienced.
In that light, 2016 could be used for genuine transition, developing players for the future rather than expecting them to effect what be a Lazarus-like turnaround.
Dispense with the sweeper system
The purists may decry it, but there’s nothing wrong, in and of itself, with playing an extra defender. Waterford’s system worked so well last year because it was a holistic strategy, with every player aware of his role within the overall picture. There was no evidence that Cork had the same understanding of it on Sunday, where William Egan dropped back but was often left to scoop up balls that Anthony Nash would otherwise have dealt with.
Cork didn’t concede a goal, but Tipp were happy to snipe points from distance and the obvious follow-on of playing an extra man back is that you give the opposition the chance to do the same. Either the Cork backs like Pádraic Maher an awful lot or enough work hadn’t been done on how to keep the ball away from Tipp’s spare men as the Premier County’s number 7 received a lot of wayward passes.
Employ better game-management
With 20 minutes left, Cork had threatened a mini-revival as they came to within seven points, 0-16 to 0-9. When they were awarded a 20m free, Patrick Horgan elected to go for goal but his effort was too weak and the ball was cleared to Egan, but his point attempt was blocked. Instead of the gap being closed to six, Cork’s tenth point didn’t come until the 63rd minute, by which time Tipp had moved to 19. Was there a discussion on what to do if a 20m free was awarded? With so much of the game left, a gamble on going for goal wasn’t the right call at that stage.
Linked with a change away from a sweeper, playing 15 on 15 would theoretically allow for more goal chances, which were sorely lacking on Sunday. Even when the game had to be chased, Darren Gleeson wasn’t tested, apart from Horgan’s 20m free. In the last eight championship games with Tipp (one win), Cork have six goals; in the eight before those (1990-2006, six wins, one draw), they scored 19.
Withdraw from hurling altogether, allowing Damien Cahalane, Aidan Walsh and Alan Cadogan to play football
Well, there’d be some people in favour…