'We could have played better but Donegal stifled us'
Conor Counihan starts by complimenting Donegal’s “fierce intensity”, something every team with intent on capturing Sam Maguire must possess. Such a key attribute was a notable absence from the 2010 All-Ireland champions’ locker yesterday. There was endeavour and some pretty scores but an equal amount of poor decision-making from men in possession of the ultimate GAA medal.
To ask about Cork players panicking on the ball with snatched shots some distance shy of the posts seemed justified. Counihan is an honest, decent man so he accepted the question without scorn. “I suppose some of it is an element of panic . . . I certainly won’ t be critical of our guys because there has been many a day when they have done the right thing.”
Counihan studied Donegal’s scalping of Kildare and the way they ended Jack O’Connor’s reign in Kerry. The same approach was evident yesterday. Cork knew what was coming, but couldn’t handle the fierce intensity when it landed upon them.
“It is probably more down to our performance but our performance was impacted by the way they performed and on the day they performed better.”
Cork faded badly after half-time. Joe Brolly had warned as much could happen, the television analyst noting how much energy had been spent to stay within one point of the Ulster champions at the interval. “Maybe we weren’t allowed play, to be fair to them. We could have played better but Donegal certainly stifled us,” Counihan continued. “Ah look, I’m not in the business of making excuses. We were there today with 70 minutes to do the business and we didn’t do it.”
Leading into this game the consensus was Cork have more quality individuals than any other panel in Ireland. They have also developed the instinctive knowledge required to win tight games. But the Donegal system squeezed the life out of them. Donegal shape up like no other opposition, so must Cork evolve or be left behind? “They have changed [football] big time. People do have to rethink it, adjust to it. But I have no doubt things will evolve. People will counteract things. But will they do it quick enough? That’s the issue now for Donegal.”
Counihan doubts whether they can win a second All-Ireland, 20 years after their first. “I’m not so sure. It’s an All-Ireland final. There are stages in games where you need to grasp it. They did that today and quite possibly could do it the next day. The way Donegal set themselves up, if they do get a lead it is difficult to break them down.”
Counihan’s current two year term is up. “I don’t think anyone will be making decisions at this point in time.”