A tough test for Cork in last eight
They might have wished for an easier game, given it is all of five weeks since they last saw action, some cynics are even writing off the Munster Final such was the poor quality of the opposition, but Kildare it is and Sunday in HQ, will define the footballers season.
As ever, Conor Counihan had a simplistic attitude when meeting the assembled media in the Rochestown Park Hotel. “Look at this stage of the Championship there are no easy games and we are where we are, and indeed where we wanted to be at this time of year.”
The break since the Clare game, was and is not an issue he says: “we always knew it would pan out this way, we set out to win the Munster title, we place huge store in it (Munster Championship) and we planned our training accordingly.”
Preparation was helped by the cancellation of a plank of games in the county c’ships involving panel members, “well it meant we got in a few good sessions and also a couple of lads had niggling little knocks which hopefully will have cleared by now.”
Kildare are regularly touted as a top 3 team, but for all the work put in by Kieran McGeeney they have failed to deliver, although to be fair they should have beaten Down two years ago, denied by a couple of controversial calls, their day will come but hopefully not on Sunday.
Questions of course still remain. The manner in which they lost to a poor Meath team and then scrapping home in extra-time over Limerick, means those questions remain unanswered.
The Seanie Johnson saga has not helped and one wonders was it worth all the hassle, and without doubt upsetting a few panel members in the process for a player, who in the opinion of many-this scribe included, is only an average performer especially in a tight contest.
Yes they had an easy win over Sligo last week, but then the Connacht championship is not of the highest standard, look at the demise of Roscommon and Galway in the qualifiers, Leitrim actually were as good as they rest in the West.
However that is not to suggest Cork will have it easy, far from it. This represents a serious test of their Championship credentials and unless they are clearly focussed on the task in hand their season could end just as abruptly as it did last year, remember Mayo?
That point was made by team captain Graham Canty. He said: “we were very disappointed after that game last year, we discussed it when we regrouped for this season, parked it and right now we are where we had hoped we would be.”
The Bantry man has recovered from the injury that kept him out of the Munster Final and is mindful of the challenge Sunday’s opposition presents, even though it was last Saturday before they knew who they would face.
“Conor did say after the Clare game keep an eye on the qualifiers at every opportunity, which we did and to be fair the selectors covered most of the games, so we concentrated on our own preparation and then this week we got down to tactics on Kildare.”
As for Kildare, Canty now faces a manager (McGeeney) whom he played International Rules with and knows exactly what the Armagh native brings to his team. “A huge motivator and his teams play with great intensity and desire, we need to match that if we do not, then we won’t win.”
Conor Counihan made the very same point saying: “we have to get at it from the very start impose ourselves on the game play to our strengths and maintain that for the 70 minutes anything less and our season will be at an end.”
Kildare may not be the most polished team left in the Chmpionship, they tend to aim a lot of ball in the direction of full-forward Tomas O’Connor so the Cork full-back line, especially Michael Shields, will need to be vigilant and he will be as his form is excellent right now.
Johnny Doyle and Eoghan O’Flaherty are key men in attack, while Emmet Bolton and Peter Kelly are consistent performers.
The composition of the Cork team will be interesting. Pearse O’Neill, Patrick Kelly and Canty are all fit again which makes for a few hard calls to be made, especially from 10 to 15 so in truth there are nine in contention for six places.
Defensively if Eoin Cadogan has recovered there will be no change while Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor will be in midfield while the attack will defiantly include Donnacha O’Connor, Paul Kerrigan and Ciaran Sheehan.
Therein lies the difference, strength in depth, Cork have it; Kildare do not.
Cork are confident they can quickly adjust to the pace of the game, that they can also match Kildare’s fitness levels and intensity, do that and they are well on the way to winning.
Dominate in midfield and with a stronger and more fluid attack, well capable of breaching the massed defence Kildare will operate, Cork look to have more options in all areas.
It’s been a rewarding and successful season to date for Conor Counihan’s men but their year will be judged on Championship results, it will be a tough hour, but given the experience they have at this level, they should have enough to win with a couple of points to spare, even 1 will do.
Cork to win.