Cork manager Counihan remains confident in advance of Dublin showdown
‘We haven’t put in a performance that we are capable of, but if we do I believe we can win.’
Cork manager Conor Counihan: “You need a bit of luck and a bit of experience, you don’t win easy All-Irelands now.” Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The last question for Conor Counihan is the only one that registers.
“We haven’t put in a performance that we are capable of, but if we do I believe we can win. Now is the time.”
So, s**t or bust?
“That’s the way it is.”
This is Counihan’s ninth championship campaign as a member of the Cork football management. There were stints in the 1990s under Billy Morgan and Larry Tompkins, and again in 2003.
He was overlooked for the manager’s role in 2003 and 2007.
Then the Rebels revolted. When the hurlers and footballers finally agreed a ceasefire with the county board, Counihan was landed in the job he not so much coveted but certainly wanted.
Now he had to go and win them an All-Ireland. Kerry spoilt that dream in depressing fashion.
The last chance was in 2010 and it took the removal of Kerry by Down (a county who hold a similar Indian sign over the Kingdom in Croke Park as the latter do over Cork there) to open the road.
Dublin and Bernard Brogan was the main speed bump before Cork made seriously hard work of a Down side, inspired by AFL professional Marty Clarke, in September.
Neither county has been able to sustain that form since. Cork are at least close, and so, remarkably, is Counihan.
This is his sixth year at the helm. Mayo dethroned them in 2011. They won the league and Munster titles last year, crushing Kerry in the semi-final, before Donegal wrung them dry in last season’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Colm O’Neill and Paddy Kelly were key figures in that team. O’Neill is gone for the year, Kelly only creeping back to match fitness.
They were banished from Killarney in the Munster final, with many focusing on the Counihan dummy team. The plan backfired, painting a picture that Counihan didn’t know his best side.
Against Galway, the team he named during the week took the field. A double bluff then.
Still, they malfunctioned again for long periods. But watch the game again. From 50 minutes onwards Cork owned the ball, pounding away, making very hard work of reeling in a three-point deficit.
They missed at least three goal chances too. It took the introduction of proven winners like Kelly, Paudie Kissane, Paul Kerrigan and, to a lesser extent, Donnacha O’Connor to turn the tide.
That and the refusal of Pearse O’Neill, Aidan Walsh and particularly Ciarán Sheehan to stop trying.