KILDARE IN 2015, Donegal in 2016, Mayo in 2017 and Tyrone in 2018 had all pushed Cork towards the exit door at the last twelve stage in the summer football race.
It was an unwelcome streak of results for the vanquished. Ronan McCarthy was selector for the first of those losses and manager for the most recent last July. Today in Thurles he saw that pattern corrected, Cork despatching Laois with a show of strength as they had accelerated clear by 14 points at the final whistle.
What altered the outcome? A two-week break since the Munster final was critical in McCarthy’s eyes allied to a desire to have no regrets from their Semple Stadium outing and the maintenance of a competitive run of form.
“I do think the two weeks is critical,” reflected McCarthy afterwards.
“I said to someone earlier that I was a selector with Brian (Cuthbert) in ’15, we ended up playing Kildare six days after and you just can’t do it. Like we trained last Saturday, that was probably the first day we trained properly after the Munster final.
“You really have to be careful what you’re doing with them. Our S&C and medical teams have done a great job in making sure they’re peaking right but the two weeks is key. Also we had regrets after the Munster final, we felt we could have won it (if we’d) just been a bit more clinical. There was an element of making sure today that we’d no regrets afterwards.
“Look the players have shown great togetherness and great resilience. I suppose they were down in a hole and they decided to pull themselves out of it. It’s only been through hard work and a small bit of belief and great work from our backroom team with them. You win games, it just breeds confidence. We just need to keep that going. Consistency is the key thing here, particularly when you’re playing three games against three top teams.”
Cork lost midfielder Killian O’Hanlon early in the game when he suffered a blow to the head while McCarthy is also hopeful injuries to other players like defender Nathan Walsh and forward Eoghan McSweeney will improve as they get set for the Super 8s.
“He got two heavy knocks and the second one kind of finished him off. Look let’s see how he is. The lads will assess him there. I was just talking to him very briefly afterwards to see was he okay. He’s actually as hard as nails. It was a bad enough challenge to be honest with you. When he’s going off it’s bad.
“Eoghan (was a) bit unfortunate. Trained Tuesday, just didn’t feel right on Wednesday, was a bit sore. He made a hard call for him but I suppose he made the mature call, just felt he wasn’t right.
“It allowed us to get Johnno (O’Rourke) in, I suppose our issue there was we had to be careful with him. One big advantage tonight was we didn’t need to use them which was great, we’ll get a week’s training out of them. The other one was we were able to get our big runners off, Ian (Maguire) and Ruairi (Deane) just to get them off the pitch 10 or 15 minutes early which should help them with the recuperation for next week.”
All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Alan Quirke was on the sideline for tonight’s game with McCarthy revealing he has joined the Cork backroom team on a short-term basis.
“Ger Kealy our goalkeeping coach is just caught with work commitments and so on in the short term. So Alan has very kindly, I asked him and he said yes immediately, just to fill in for Ger for the short term.
“Brilliant to have him, he didn’t have to be asked a second time to be fair to him. He’s a lovely calming influence as he had as a keeper when he was playing. He’s low-key, low-profile, he’ll add to what we have here for the period of time he’s with us and we’re delighted to have him.”
The Cork manager heaped praise on the form of attacker Brian Hurley, who has continued his recovery after a series of severe injury setbacks and shot 2-4 from play against the Laois defence.
Brian Hurley shoots past Graham Brody to score a goal for Cork.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
“I actually thought it was his best game for us since he has come back. In other games he’s scoring but today his play in bringing people into it, showing all the time, his running off, his decision making was brilliant.
“Look he’ll only get stronger. Obviously we have to manage him injury wise and look we were able to get him off today which was great after 50 minutes or so. I’ve said this and I’ve been repeating myself, I don’t think people realise the loss he has been to Cork football over the last two years.
“Every night he comes in, you don’t want to mark him because you will earn it every night he comes in. He sets the standard for everybody and it’s great to have him back.”
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