Counihan: ‘you can’t take your foot off the pedal’
MATCH REACTION:The scoreboard may have read prettily from a Cork perspective but as Conor Counihan gave an immediate review of their latest triumph, he admitted he had seen things that he didn’t like. The helium went out of the day in the first half but the manager was disappointed that his players seemed to ease up once it was clear that they weren’t going to be caught.
It wasn’t that he wanted to punish Clare. But Cork are regarded by many as favourites for the All-Ireland and have plenty of contenders for the first 15 positions. He wanted players to stay mindful of that fact.
“A bit more urgency was needed. Fellas have put themselves under question . . . You can’t take your foot off the pedal,” he said as a small band of Cork supporters gathered around the victorious players.
“ You can’t be too negative about it – we have won our first Munster championship in three years but at the same time we will be finding out why we didn’t push on in the second half.”
Nicholas Murphy, who lined out in midfield for the throw in but then housed down in front of Joe Hayes’ goal, also felt that the Cork lacked steam as the game progressed. The three goals were fine but after that, both teams just traded scores.
“Yeah, at the same time you want to be as ruthless as you can and you want to push on. But in fairness to Clare, they kept pushing and they drove it on to the end. We pulled away in the last few minutes. When you start out, you want to win every competition and a Munster final is no different. Now we have to prepare for the All-Ireland and we know we have to improve on last year.”
As Clare manager Michael McDermott revealed, the Division Four side faced Hobson’s Choice when it came to coping with the Cork attack.
“In the lead up to the game and watching Cork closely over the last 12 months: if you drop men back you invite Cork onto you and they will kick 25 or 26 points with the quality that they have. You may not concede goals but that is the quality you are dealing with. They are Division One champions and are probably favourite to win the All-Ireland. And we wanted to play our way. We wanted to go out there and have condifence in our game and take it to Cork.
“And the goals probably came from our mistakes rather than them penetrating It was us maybe giving the ball away and breaking balls going their way and if the sweeper had been there, the goals still would probably have gone in. But it’s a chance in a lifetime to be in a Munster final and you don’t go in to try and contain a game or keep the score down. You go out to try and win it and we were brave enough to try and do that.”
The sky hasn’t quite fallen in on them either. They have lost the once-in-a-generation chance to win a Munster football medal but the ambition of making it to the last eight of the championship is still a reality. And Clare’s summer has been about defying expectation. McDermott does not expect that motivation is going to be an issue.
“After what happened against Wicklow in the last round of the league, I don’t think it will. These boys are hurting but I guarantee you this week they will have their goals refocused. We still have an opportunity to get to the All-Ireland quarter final. One game!
“For the last few years we have been fighting it out in the first round of the qualifiers. Now we are in the fourth round. That is fantastic for Clare football and these lads aren’t going to be found wanting for the next three weeks to try and get into that quarter final.”
Conor Counihan shrugged when asked if the small crowd was indicative of waning interest in the Munster championship tradition. “You are in a stage now when you are in an economic down turn and matches last night for both Cork and Clare supporters . . . it is probably not feasible as such. But I do think there is plenty of hunger there and we will see that in the quarter final stages.”