Diarmuid O’Sullivan: Cork need Lehane and Kingston on the park to be All-Ireland contenders

Get them in the starting 15!

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Was it essential for Cork to win Munster three years in a row? I suppose being a hurling person, a Cork person and a supporter, it would have been a lovely thought if they could have won it again, but look, that’s gone.

Cork teams have struggled for primary possession this year – but it’s not just this year or last year – it’s an issue going back for the last four or five years.

We worked on trying to rectify it when I was involved, but it’s still an issue. It’s probably one of the weakest parts of the Cork game.

We all know how key primary possession is in hurling. Teams who do it successfully will come out on top 90 per cent of the time.

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Cork were completely bullied by Clare on Sunday. The whole country was talking about how bad Clare had been leading into the game and if you keep kicking the dog in the corner, at some point the dog is going to come back and bite you!

It’s only a few short years ago, a lot of these Clare players were hailed as probably the most dominant group in the game of hurling. The most naturally gifted hurlers that were about after winning the All-Ireland in 2013, and it just hasn’t materialised for them since.

Cork have had the upper hand in every single game of any significance in the meantime. But, the tone was set early before the ball was even thrown in on Sunday. There was an aggressive nature to Clare.

I do have to ask, where was that hunger from them all Championship though? It seems a bit strange that they only played like that in their last game.

Creaking back-line

Going back to the Limerick game, we were delighted with the Cork full-back line then. Sean O’Donoghue, Eoin Cadogan and Niall O’Leary dominated their men and possession. But, they’ve been opened up a bit since then.

Eoin Cadogan is an aggressive type player, he’s abrasive and he likes the physicality of constant exchanges.

But, when Eoin is dragged out of position, the whole thing comes a small bit undone for Cork.

Sean O’Donoghue is still young enough in his career, but that the middle has been wide open and they’re failing to identify where the space is.

Niall is still a work in progress. He completely sold himself to Shane O’Donnell last weekend and O’Donnell just walked past him and struck the ball to the back of the net. It was naïve of O’Leary to leave him get by on inside so easily.

They’ll either need to call Mark Ellis back to plug the hole a small bit or bring the two corner backs closer to each other and leave the forwards play on the outside.

They just cut out the space in the middle. But, it’s a learning process for them.

A fiery occasion

Gerry O’Connor is a very gracious man both in victory and defeat. I’ve come to learn that, because I’ve spent a bit of time standing opposite him on the sideline. He’ll know it was a rush of blood when he flung Daniel Kearney to the floor.

But, it was also a statement – rightly or wrongly.

He was trying to fire up his troops, because it’s possibly their last war cry as a management team.

We’re not privy to that information, but it possibly could be. Gerry will be disappointed with his reaction. However, it served as a bit of a catalyst to Clare.

Stephen McDonnell can count himself lucky on the Cork side.

I don’t think it an issue with him of just what was happening last weekend. Stephen McDonnell has had a bit of a chequered past with Clare players out through the years.

There’s been a few incidents. He obviously had his elbow broken at the during challenge game a number of years ago as well, so that’s obviously sitting in the back of his mind.

But look, Tony Kelly was the aggressor in a lot of situations on Sunday too. It’s very easy again to point the finger at Stephen McDonnell, but he can count himself lucky that he didn’t go.

Safety was an afterthought in Ennis

There’s wet days and there’s wet days!

So many questions can be raised about Sunday, like where does player welfare come into it? Where does the welfare of the patrons come into the equation? Where was the welfare when people and children tried to get in under the covered terrace? A lot of people started to be crushed inside it.

It wasn’t just a five, 10-second downpour, a flash or two of lightning and a clap of thunder.

It was incessant. You have to think about the guys on the field and the 16,000 patrons who’d paid into the game. There was umbrellas up inside the terraces and my two young lads were inside that terrace. What if someone’s umbrella had been hit by lightning with children around? Who’s responsible for that?

I know that these might sound dramatic because it only happens once in a blue moon, but there are further questions to be asked on the back of that. There wasn’t significant stewarding either and I believe the game should have been stopped for a while on safety grounds. It wasn’t safe for players or patrons.

Cork need star forwards on the field

There are questions for Cork now that they’ve seal qualification for the All-Ireland series.

Do the management know their best 15? Are they now happy with the squad they have? Are they satisfied that guys have been progressed in the round-robin series?

However, I think the biggest question levelled at them is, have they done enough in the round robin series to mount a serious challenge for the All-Ireland?

If you were to be realistic, if Cork are to win the All-Ireland going forward, you can’t afford to have both Conor Lehane and Shane Kingston coming on from the bench.

You get away with holding one of them back, but I don’t think Cork will win the All-Ireland without at least one of them starting.  Shane came on again on Sunday and really tried to impose himself on the game, more so than Conor Lehane did.

Shane has had a chip on his shoulder in the last number of games and he really needs to start now.

I’ll go as far as saying, I can’t see how Cork even qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final without one, if not the two of them on the starting 15.

Cork need to work on their hunger. They need to work on the fluency of their game and they definitely need to work on their aggression in the game. Their urgency is poor too.  These are all easily corrected, but attitude will reflect in your performance and if you have the right attitude to fix that, you’ll fix it.

They’ve played their get out of jail card on Sunday, they won’t be able to use it again.

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