What Cork hurlers must do to beat Dublin

Its going to be a very tight battle on Sunday and Sean Cremin looks at the major things Jimmy Barry Murphy will have to if his Cork hurlers are to beat Dublin in Sundays All-Ireland hurling semi-final.

Stop Dublin’s half-back line

This line has been the launchpad for Dublin’s success so far this season. Stephen Hiney, Liam Rushe and Michael Carton have established a very strong line here. They have been excellent in defence relieving an awful lot of pressure and their clearances have been excellent in creating options for their attackers. Rushe has finally been given the number six jersey and had a team built around him as opposed to his versatility being used elsewhere. Carton has been the most underrated player in the championship so far, in my opinion. He has had an outstanding season and received very few plaudits.

If Cork are to win they cannot allow this line to dominate. They were very successful in stopping the phenomenal Kilkenny half-back line in the quarter-final and they will need more of the same. Jamie Coughlan was very important in his role at centre-forward and Cork will want him to have a similar impact on Liam Rushe. Seamus Harnedy has been the find of the championship. He is very good in the air and also excellent at forcing half-backs onto the back foot.

Patrick Cronin needs to offer a lot more from the point of view of physicality. Initially I thought he was very poor against Kilkenny but second viewing showed that he got through a lot of work. For such a big presence I think he needs to use his size a bit more. Dublin are a physical side and Cork need him to use his presence. The Cork half-forward’s must play as well as they did against Kilkenny or they risk handing the initiative to Dublin.

Dominate midfield

This is an area that Cork have the ability to dominate and they must ensure that they utilise their strength in this area. The duo of Daniel Kearney and Lorcan McLoughlin definitely seems to be the most effective. Christopher Joyce lined out at midfield against Limerick and Clare but the team now seems more balanced with Joyce at centre-back and Kearney and McLoughlin at midfield. They complement each other well and they will need to link up well to give Cork a platform from this area.

Kearney has had an outstanding debut season so far. While he played in 2012, 2013 has seen him make the midfield position his own. His start to the game against Kilkenny was the main reason for Cork’s victory. He set the tone for everybody around him and the players followed suit. McLoughlin is returning from injury and I think the last two games will have benefitted his return to full match fitness. He was probably Cork’s best performer in the league and a return to his bet form creates a formidable midfield. I think Cork have the upper hand here in terms of personnel and they must make it count.

Cope with Dublin’s physicality

This is one challenge that Dublin will provide that Cork haven’t really faced yet this season. Dublin should pose a big physical threat to Cork. Kilkenny are known for being a physical side but their tiredness and subsequent lack of intensity meant they didn’t bring the physicality they were capable of. I would imagine that this is an area that Dublin will target as they are a bigger outfit than Cork.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy has made no secret of the fact that he has focused on pace to compensate for Cork’s lack of size. He once said that he was trying to establish a team of greyhounds as opposed to elephants. If Dublin take a physical approach then Cork will have to focus on their pace and athleticism to counteract them. Open games have suited Cork and it’s the sort of game that they will try to create.

Try and create more goal chances

Cork are yet to score a goal in this year’s championship and rarely have they threatened the opposition goal either. While they have big up some big point tallies a few goals would be very useful. They have been very content to keep taking points and trust their defence at the other end. It has worked so far but it is a dangerous tactic. Clare could easily have scored goals against them and Kilkenny looked like they could potentially open them up at times.

Cork should take on goal opportunities that bit more. A manager like Jimmy Barry-Murphy, renowned for his goal scoring, would surely have had his coaches working on this in training. They have pace up front in Jamie Coughlan, Luke O’Farrell and Conor Lehane and players like Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan know where the goal is. Saying that Cork have won All-Ireland’s with low goal scoring rates before and they may trust what they know.

Use their tradition

It may seem outrageous to suggest that past teams could have an impact on Cork for this game against Dublin but I honestly think the difference in tradition between Cork and Dublin in hurling could have a big impact on the outcome here. There is a natural confidence in Cork hurlers and it all comes down to tradition. In any game at this time of the year, Cork will be confident of winning regardless of the opposition.

There is no doubt that this will be a very tough game for both sides, and Dublin will be favourites based on the teams they have beaten so far, but Cork will have every confidence in themselves. In an All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Dublin, Cork will expect. It can be called arrogance, or confidence or whatever, but Cork will expect to win this game. Even if they find themselves behind, they will believe in themselves to come back.

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