There is no Cork hurling crisis. Honest. We know this because two Kilkenny men told us so.
That temporarily trumps the worrying comments made by Cork coaching officer Kevin O’Donovan after defeat to Tipperary.
Martin Fogarty was adamant Cork hurling will be just fine, when speaking earlier this week at his unveiling as GAA national hurling development manager.
Fogarty, a long-serving selector under Brian Cody, had his point echoed by JJ Delaney, the seven-time All Star, who has neatly transferred into punditry ahead of Sky Sports 5 coverage of Cork versus Dublin in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night (7pm).
“Crisis has been a word thrown around too regularly to be honest with you,” Delaney said. “Looking back on the year, and that’s all you can judge on, they have been poor in the league. But I thought they were very, very good against Kilkenny that night down in Páirc Uí Rinn.
“They were unlucky to lose, they should have beaten Kilkenny in that game but they won the crunch game against Galway when they had to.”
Instead of labelling Cork GAA as a crisis region, Delaney identified a tactical alteration that would get the sliotar up to their match-winning forwards, like Patrick Horgan, with increased regularity.
“Against Tipperary I just thought the team that lined out was very negative. It was to keep Tipp from scoring goals. Look, the sweeper is here and it’s been here from a couple of years.
“A lot of teams play with a sweeper but I don’t think Cork do. They play with four people in the full back line to nullify any goal threat the Tipperary full forward line had.
“When you see the Waterford or Clare extra defender get the ball it becomes a platform for their halfback line and midfield, for everyone, to attack. Cork weren’t doing that. The ball was put up to the Tipperary backs.
“If Cork are going to beat Dublin I think they need to move
from where he was standing on the 14 [yard line] against Tipperary up in between the centre halves and fullback. Where he was playing the last day wasn’t effective.
“He was just there to stop Séamus Callanan and Bubbles [O’Dwyer] from getting goals, which he did fair enough; but it was a case of keeping the score down rather than going and winning the match.
“I think they have learned their lesson. I’d say there was a few home truths told in the dressing room after that game.
“Crisis talk, I don’t know. It’s just about getting their house in order, a few little tweaks here and there. They beat Clare in the championship last year so they have match-winners when they are on the ball but it’s about what they do when they don’t have the ball.”
Unless Cork can change, Delaney believes the physical intimidation Dublin attempted to bring to bear on Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final should be enough to see Ger Cunningham engineer a famous victory over his own people.
“I think if Dublin go with that physicality against Cork again they might reap dividends from it,” said Delaney.
“Kilkenny are so used to it because every team tries that against them. They were expecting it.
“But if Dublin get back up to that level in the first 20 minutes, especially down in Páirc Uí Rinn as I can see the Cork supporters coming out and supporting them, even though they are in a bad place at the minute. Home game, Saturday night game, Dublin will have to nullify that crowd.”
However, if Cork lose at home then Delaney agreed that the one season managerial reign of Kieran Kingston may remain just that.
“Definitely going to have to be questions asked. If they go down like they did against Tipperary I couldn’t see a future for him. If they have a bit of fight, a bit of heart back into their play I’d definitely give him another year.
“The attitude of the players will tell a lot. This is knockout championship, if your head is not right and if your manager can’t get the players right for a knockout championship and they are just about keeping the score down then I don’t think there is a future for him.”
Now that would be a crisis.