National League

Cork's first League win in Tralee since 1982

February 8th, 2011
by Weeshie Fogarty

Last Sundays meeting of age old rivals Kerry and Cork was as good a National League fixture between the sides as I have seen for many a long year. The first half in particular was wonderful stuff as the play swung from end to end and we witnessed some superb point kicking from both sides.  Last week I concluded my preview of this game with the words "a Kerry win would be a bonus". And that bonus was very close to becoming a reality and indeed only for some very dubious calls in my opinion by the referee during those hectic closing minutes Kerry could well have snatched at least a share of the spoils.  Without delving too deep into the matter of interpretation of the tackle in Gaelic football that will be a column for another day let me put it like this. If the referee had not awarded those last three scoreable frees to Cork would anyone following the All Ireland champions have been incensed. I doubt it very much so incidental were the tackles.  I had a quick word with Cork manager Connor Counihan after his side's victory and he admitted that it's very frustrating for defenders in view of the referee's interpretation of the tackle. Usually at the start of the leagues we have some form of controversy in relation to what way a call is or are not made and inevitably as the championship comes in we revert back to the status quo. Last year it was the hand pass, the year before it was yellow card, this year it's the tackle. The referees are being assessed by the assessors sitting in the stand; they in turn are being assessed by Croke Park, but who assesses Croke Park?  We will see how things unfold.

Nevertheless at the end of the day it was the magnificent free kicking of corner forward Daniel Goulding which ultimately decided the result.  The Eire Og man was superb from placed balls. Seven points to his credit four from frees and three of these from forty fives. He really punished the Kerry defenders who need to become much more disciplined in their marking. And then we saw Donnacha o Connor another one of the Cork full fordward line helping himself to six points, three from play. The high ball into the Kerry full back line caused untold trouble all day and Cork exposed this weakness in a big way. So who will play where?  Mark o Shea will be in the corner or the wing, Killian Young will also receive a warm welcome back from injury and the question still remains. Will Tommy griffin man the full back position? Jonathan Lyne and Shane Enright will benefit from more outings and will help form the panel, and its all about a panel not just a team. Padraig o Connor, Paul Geaney, and Peter Crowley three young guns will need more experience before the panel is finalized.

 Cork brought on some very experienced and physically strong players. On the other hand as Kerry introduced their subs only Seamus Scanlon matched up to the opposition in this regard.  As stated the first half was a cracker and Kerry matched the All ireland champions in most areas with the Kerry forwards in particula very impressive. Darren o Sullivan on the forty and Kieran Donaghy, full forward won huge amount of ball. Darren continues the scintillating form he has shown since the year began and his run late in the second half to set up the goal which was coolly taken by substitute Paul Geaney was one of the highlights of a dull grey overcast afternoon. Donaghy at full forward is going to be a handful for any defense if he continues as he is at present. His is expanding and adding to his game in a number of areas and his ability to bring the very impressive David Geaney into play is a huge plus for the selectors. With Colm Cooper back in the other corner it is looking like a very dangerous and classy full forward line.

There are of course others to return to the fray, Declan o Sullivan, Tom o Sullivan, Brian Sheehan and Paul Galvin in particular and while Jack o Connor will know full well that he has as good as set of forwards if not the best in the country the one big problem remains. Centerfield will have to provide the service to the men inside. While fifty, fifty possessions might suffice to win games there will be days when one should expect to have a greater share of the ball. Last Sunday Kerry failed to score from the 39th minute right through to the 62nd minute. Cork were dominating around the central area and crucially picking up a huge amount of breaking ball. David Moran did some very good things especially in that first half and now he will have to put too good halves together as he tends to drift in and out of the action. The selectors are going to have a lot of debating as the league rolls on. The task of solving the jigsaw has begun in earnest and we will see plenty of men in different positions as games come thick and fast.

However the side line men will I think be well pleased with the commitment, never say die attitude, fitness and some very skilful performance on the ball by their charges. It's all about a panel of twenty four men each one capable of doing a job on any given day. This was Corks first league win in Kerry since 1982. You could see that winning the All Ireland has given them that little bit of cockiness and belief that was absent before. When Kerry got that late goal Cork never panicked, they introduced a few experienced sub and weather the storm exactly as Kerry had so often done to them in the past.  They are ahead of Kerry at the moment in relation to having a set panel. It's going to be a fascinating league to follow as Jack o Connor and his selectors "pick and choose".  Early days and the prospects are I for one believe very encouraging.

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