Davy Fitzgerald column: Cork tweaks needed as famine extends to an 18th year

Cork will be puzzled at the fact that they find themselves out of the Championship and they need to ask some hard questions.

We’re now moving towards 18 years without an All-Ireland and it’s a long time for a county of their size and tradition. But they do have the talent to be real All-Ireland contenders. They just need to make a few tweaks.

They had so many opportunities in the first half to build a lead but several goal and point chances went awry. That was all after Patrick Collins, a goalkeeper who I rate very highly, dropped the ball into the net.

They largely dominated the game in general play with their half-forward line dropping deep and causing plenty of problems for Galway. Padraic Mannion wasn’t pushing up on Shan Kingston, who Cork should have played more short ball into as he caused problems when he ran at Mannion.

But in the last 10 minutes of the first half Galway pushed up on the Cork half-forwards, affording them less space.

Jack Grealish had a very good game for Galway, especially towards the end when it was up for grabs. He was very tight and used the ball well.

Galway worked hard to be fair to them and David Burke controlled the midfield. You could see how he was organising lads around them – he’s a massive leader and I’ve been surprised at how little Galway have used him in the last two years.

Conor Whelan had a great first half, especially when he was isolated on Sean O’Donoghue. He’s so difficult to play against, is very physical and even with so-called 50-50 balls, he’s going to win most of them.

But in the last 20 minutes he was brought out the field, where he was of no help to the team whatsoever. I couldn’t understand why this was allowed to happen – Galway needed his threat in front of goal.

The Cork sideline made some questionable decisions too. I felt that Alan Connolly was taken off too early. He didn’t get the type of ball on the outside that he likes. Outside of that, he’s one of those forwards that works so hard and it’s very hard to replace that.

They’ll be happy in that they seem to have found a centre-back in Ciaran Joyce this year, Damien Cahalane had a really good game, Darragh Fitzgibbon impressed in patches and Robbie O’Flynn is one of their most consistent forwards.

But they’re not getting enough out of Mark Coleman. Maybe he needs to back himself to attack more or else move into midfield because he’s one of the best hurlers in Cork and they need to extract a lot more from him.

It’s Galway who move on though. They’ll be happy with the victory but not the performance.

The effort was there but the quality was lacking and Henry Shefflin needs to look at how they set up.

If they give Limerick the chances Cork got, the game will be over by half-time. They’ll have to improve a hell of a lot to have any chance.

Clare can eye All-Ireland final after Wexford escape

GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final, FBD Semple Stadium, Tipperary 18/6/2022 Clare vs Wexford Clare’s Tony Kelly celebrates the final whistle Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Maher

I always felt that Clare-Wexford would be tight and that Clare would struggle to reach their Munster final levels.

Throw in the fallout around the suspensions coming into the game and it all added up to a sluggish display for the most part from them.

Wexford showed what they’re about against Kilkenny and it wasn’t a surprise to me that Diarmuid O’Keeffe started. He’s a smart player and sets up the play well.

Shane Reck, someone I rate highly, was handed the massive task of marking Tony Kelly having been out injured for most of the year.

It certainly wasn’t a classic game but had some good patches.

John Conlon has had a decent year at centre-back for Clare but he was caught ball-watching by Jack O’Connor for Wexford’s first goal.

They nearly had a second shortly after through a Rory Hayes mistake and Hayes was then whipped off.

My own view is that it’s very hard to judge someone after eight minutes. If Cian Nolan was on form, just play him from the start. Hayes can feel disappointed, he’s had a decent Championship, even if the Munster final didn’t go well for him.

Like last year’s game, Clare struggled with Lee Chin and Conor McDonald inside. Granted, each of the second half goals could have been chalked off for a square ball but the two lads were still causing problems. Chin is one of the best forwards in the game.

From six down, Diarmuid Ryan, Shane O’Donnell and Tony Kelly were massive. Ryan was good all afternoon but it says a lot about the other two that they were playing fairly average stuff yet were to the fore when needed most.

The turning point was Mark Fanning’s error, which gave Clare unstoppable momentum. He’s a very decent goalie but you have to do the simple things right.

Clare will take the win while knowing that performance won’t beat Kilkenny. But if they get back to their Munster final form, they’ll be in an All-Ireland final with a great chance.

Split doesn’t quite fit

It’s strange to think that Cork were out of the Championship on June 18, even if they only have themselves to blame.

The same with Waterford, Tipperary, Dublin and Wexford. We won’t see them again until next February and by the first week of July there will only be two teams left.

I’m very much in favour of the split season but I think it needs to be adjusted. An extra three or four weeks for the inter-county season and it would be just right. You’d have two teams left in August, four in mid-July and the vast majority of them gone by the first week of July – that still leaves plenty of time for the clubs.

I’d like to see more of our games on television over the summer, especially in July and August. In any other four-year cycle, the World Cup would be on right now, squeezing the Championship further. They’re lucky it’s in November/December this year.

Additionally, most counties play their club leagues from April through to July. It should give players who may be struggling to get a game when all the county players are back an opportunity to stake a claim.

That window has been closed on them to a large degree too.

Minors don’t need to be shunted away

Offaly and Clare in action

The GAA has moved away from playing minor and senior games together at Croke Park which I find strange.

We had two great minor semi-finals over the weekend but the Offaly-Tipperary final takes place in Nowlan Park as a standalone fixture.

In 1989 it was an incredible experience for me to play before the senior final. The stadium wouldn’t be half full but it’s good to get a feel for the atmosphere.

I know the grade has gone back a year since but I played minor for three years and also in an under-16 Munster final as a curtain raiser to the senior one at 15.

It didn’t do me any harm.

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