MARTIN BREHENY – 10 AUGUST 2013
One set of stats are all against Dublin. They haven’t reached the All-Ireland final for 52 years, haven’t won a semi-final (they received a bye to the final as Leinster champions in 1961) for 65 years and haven’t beaten Cork in the championship for 86 years.
Yes, when John McCaffrey leads them out at Croke Park at around 3.10 tomorrow afternoon, all that discouraging baggage will have been dumped in a skip. Instead, Dublin will be focusing on modern, much more upbeat figures to underpin their latest adventure.
Their win in the Leinster semi-final was their first championship success over Kilkenny for 71 years; they beat last year’s All-Ireland winners and runners-up Galway, hitting the latter for 2-25, which is eight points better than Cork’s best total so far this summer.
Most of all, Dublin are bristling with a brand of confidence that won’t be easily eroded.
However, they are facing a different challenge to anything they have encountered so far. Kilkenny were clearly out of sorts this year, making them easier than usual targets for Dublin’s manic power play.
At their best, the Cats would have absorbed the pressure and returned it with considerable interest, but not this year when they never quite got in sync.
As for Galway, they disintegrated so quickly once Dublin surged forward in the second quarter that the game was effectively decided by half-time. With so many Galway players heading for the escape chutes, Dublin dominated every sector en route to the easiest of wins.
Unlike Galway, who didn’t function this year, Cork have been playing well, even if they lost the Munster final. That game has to carry an asterisk against it as Patrick Horgan missed the entire second half, a loss which cost Cork dearly.
Just how dearly was brought home to them when they enjoyed a similar advantage for the second half against Kilkenny two weeks ago.
Cork’s style is very pleasing on the eye as they move the ball into space all the time in an effort to avoid the traffic which has become so common in the modern game. Once they get within striking distance, they shoot for points, ignoring the temptation to try and work the ball into the goal area. Hence, their reliance on points rather than goals to win games.
Anthony Daly has always majored in setting up good defensive alignments, succeeding quite often in his Clare days, only to discover that it left him short of strike power at the other end.
He has achieved a better balance with Dublin this year, combining defensive security with attacking invention. The mix has seen them remain unbeaten in five championship games, a run rarely experienced by Dublin in any season throughout their history.
The accuracy of Paul Ryan and Joey Boland (both from frees and open play) has led the way on the scoring front (they have landed 3-46 between them), while Danny Sutcliffe, ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan, Ryan O’Dwyer and Conal Keaney have also contributed enormously to Dublin’s much-improved strike force.
There’s no doubt that Dublin have been a much more coherent force this year, but then so have Cork, notwithstanding the nine-point defeat by Limerick.
Far too much was read into their relegation from Division 1A, which was really a case of one big power losing out in a group where any one of the six could have gone down if they lost one more game.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy backed his instincts right from the start, re-building the team to suit his philosophy, not to satisfy the whims of former players who give the impression that they know what’s best.
You wonder if some of them would have chuckled privately if Cork had lost to Clare in the Munster semi-final, muttering: “We told you so.”
They totally misjudged what Barry-Murphy was about and it would be a mistake for anybody else to do likewise. He brings a very accomplished squad to Croke Park and with the weight of history behind them, they will have no doubts that they can secure their place in another All-Ireland final.
However, they are up against a fiercely formidable unit, who, if they continue to believe in themselves and maintain the ferocity of effort which beat Kilkenny and Galway, can generate enough momentum to book a place in the final.
Cork – A Nash; S McDonnell, S O’Neill, C O’Sullivan; T Kenny, C Joyce, W Egan; L McLoughlin, D Kearney; S Harnedy, J Coughlan, P Cronin; L O’Farrell, P Horgan, C Lehane.
Dublin – G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, P Schutte; S Hiney, L Rushe, M Carton; J McCaffrey, J Boland; C Keaney, R O’Dwyer, D Sutcliffe; D O’Callaghan, P Ryan, DTreacy.
Dublin v Cork,
Live, tomorrow, RTE2, 3.30