Splitting the Posts: Don’t take it personally, Cork
09:48, 08 May 2012
Just don't take it personally. Because Cork are neither the first nor will they be the last to be humbled by Kilkenny.
It was bad, no question about that; 3-21 to 0-16 can’t be made a silk purse of. As against Galway on Nowlan Park, an early blitz broke the game for the Cats where they scored 2-6 between the second and 10th minutes at Semple Stadium. Cork didn’t even amass 12 points til near the hour mark.
It was interesting to see where those scores came from. The goals came from Cork being turned over at midfield and then in the forward line; the second was particularly painful because, in a scoring position, Pa Cronin miscontrolled a pass from the ever-grafting Patrick Horgan and was dispossessed by Brian Hogan. Seconds later, Eoin Larkin was setting up Colin Fennelly for a net buster.
Larkin was named man of the match and with good reason. Of the 3-11 Kilkenny put up in the first half, he either scored (including 0-2f) or was involved in moves that resulted in 3-3. Overall, he was involved in 16 of Kilkenny’s 36 scoring chances (45%), which is exceptional.
Full-back Steven McDonnell is an excellent prospect for Cork but you wonder if a more physical presence is needed against someone of the James Stephens clubman’s calibre. Brian Murphy was brought across to limit the damage but the cavalry found nothing left to salvage.
Eoin Cadogan has his admirers at number six but he had for the most part excelled at full-back previously in his Cork career. And as William Egan played at centre-back in 2011, we know this is an option that Jimmy Barry-Murphy may consider in the future. Cadogan’s bite might be more needed around the square, but it could be hasty to change too much based on one reverse.
Indeed JBM has plenty of furniture to rearrange, if he so chooses. Martin Coleman’s early mistake allowed Larkin a soft goal and that was just part of the goalkeeper’s struggles. More than half of his puckouts ended in Kilkenny possession and four resulted in scores for the opposition. That he pucked a couple into the hand of wing-forward Cillian Buckley in the opening minutes only hastened the already advancing Black and Amber.
It was some good and plenty of bad all over for Cork. Pa Cronin summed them up. He caught five puckouts but tempered those by wasting possession at different times: Richie and Brian Hogan both stole his keys in the first half while the Rebels centre-forward also booted the ball out over the sideline when trying to pass to the teammate. It was a theme for Cork, and it gave Kilkenny encouragement they never needed.
On 54 minutes, Coleman tried to bat away a mishit pointed effort by Matthew Ruth but almost gifted a goal to Colin Fennelly (our early tip, along with Larkin, for Hurler of the Year). It made us wonder why Anthony Nash was not retained in goal after doing well against Tipperary in the semi-final. Surely form must come into play during selections, and Nash had done no wrong. Even if it was a case that he was brought on against Tipp because of a rotation between who gets to be Donal Óg Cusack’s back-up from game to game, hadn’t he done enough to warrant his chance? Coming into championship time, JBM has a question here instead of an answer.
On the subject of selections, Darren Sweetnam has to be in serious contention for a start in the Munster semi-final. When he came on, Cork began to drive forward from midfield - allowing that the Cats had powered down and put on some subs. Sweetnam scored 0-2, set up a goal chance that Paudie O’Sullivan missed - when Paul Murphy got back on the line - and, after losing his stick, handpassed for Jamie Coughlan to net. For some reason it was disallowed by referee James McGrath, even though Sweetnam earlier performed an identical handpass without a hurley to no objection.
Cork can only blame themselves for not being as cynical in defence as Kilkenny were, though. JJ Delaney was booked for putting the butt of his hurley to Conor Lehane’s helmet when heading for goal, Murphy was cautioned for fouling Horgan when on the charge, and Brian Hogan pulled down the same man for a penalty. Hogan should have been gone at that point because after receiving yellow early in the second half, he subsequently flicked Shane O’Neill’s helmet with his stick - enough for a second yellow in the first place, and his reaction said as much - and then gave away the penalty. Perhaps Kilkenny were just physically too much for Cork, but they were not being dragged to the ground when it made sense for the Rebels to do so. Perhaps it will be a lesson learned.
Not to suggest that Kilkenny weren’t by far the better team in any case. More that these factors helped widen the gap.
Turnovers won the game for Kilkenny, as they did the All-Ireland last September. It is a feature - along with their inherent skill - that sets them apart. They dispossessed Cork 24 times in the first half and 2-3 of their first 2-6 were off the back of this, with 0-2 more from awry Coleman puckouts. As much as the Cats were on top, Cork were slinking underneath too. Kilkenny coughed up the ball just 15 times in that half and it was a quarter of an hour before that turned into a score for John Gardiner.
Cork actually owned the turnovers in the second half (36 to 26) but there wasn’t a game left to fight for at that point. Like replacing the thatch on a roof when the fire is still roaring beneath. It was notable, however, that Cork were dispossessed for the most part on the flanks. In last year’s All-Ireland, Tipp were guilty of being bottled up in the middle and so JBM clearly felt his best option was to move them around; Brian Cody’ side showed us they can play it any which way.
Of course no one will remember this game if Cork push on in the championship. Galway took a worse beating in Nowlan Park but after a draw and a win against a Dublin side that has yet to win a league game in 2012, people are already beginning to wonder if, in a one-off game, as they love to call it, the Tribesmen might not catch out the Cats. Ode to 2001 and 2005.
Such is sport: one week the slain, next week the slayer. Unless you’re Kilkenny, then you’re Buffy each and every week. With Henry Van Helsing and Richie Power Blade to come back. It’s quite ominous for the rest.
One of comedian Jack Handey’s best-known witticisms contains a perverse warning for those in the hunt: “One thing vampire children are taught is, never run with a wooden stake.”
The scarcely mortal Kilkenny don’t look like tripping up on theirs any time soon.
(1st: 14/22; 2nd: 10/14)
(1st 6/10; 2nd 10/21)
(1st: 24; 2nd: 26)
(1st: 15; 2nd: 36)
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