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All Ireland: Cork’s pace is a threat to Down

Two words have tended to dominate any assessment of the Cork team that will face Down in the All Ireland football final tomorrow week – physically imposing.

But if anything this masks the other attributes which Conor Counihan’s ambitious side will undoubtedly bring to the Croke Park table and Mourne county forward Paul McComiskey, currently playing the best football of his career, is in absolutely no doubt about one of these in particular.

“There does not appear to have been too much mention made of Cork’s pace so far but I think that this is one of their key assets. Everyone will automatically point to the likes of Paul Kerrigan and Patrick Kiely as very fast players but when you look at others such as Noel O’Leary, Pearse O’Neill, Colm O’Neill and Donnacha O’Connor you see people who can really cover the ground,” insists McComiskey.

If some of Cork’s forwards possess the kind of blistering acceleration that can unhinge even the best-organised defences then the team as a whole is imbued with a level of stamina and staying power that proved central to their most crucial wins to date – the quarter-final and semi-final defeats of Roscommon and Dublin respectively.

Cork may sacrifice elegance in the interests of industry but their abrasive, in-your-face approach can discomfit opponents and undermine their game plan.

Having being involved in Down’s abortive bid to win last year’s All Ireland Under -21 final when they were beaten by a last-minute Cork goal, McComiskey has taken on board what he believes is a significant message as he prepares to avoid a second helping of heartbreak at the hands of the Leesiders.

“In that Under-21 final Cork kept going right to the end. Maybe their senior team has not been playing to optimum levels lately but that should be a real warning to us. They are well accustomed to participating in big games in Croke Park and will have a fanatical desire to win next Sunday because of the trauma they have endured in recent All Ireland finals,” states McComiskey.

A trainee accountant, the Dundrum clubman has slotted comfortably into James McCartan’s restructured attack alongside the influential Martin Clarke and the solid Mark Poland. And while he admits that right-full-forward is the position in which he feels most at home, he is prepared to fulfil whatever role the manager requests.

“Everyone in this Down squad is just so delighted to be going into the All Ireland final that they would not mind where they are picked to play,” smiles McComiskey.

“From my own perspective, I enjoy being an inside-forward which gives me a chance maybe to get a few shots in. Obviously the manager will have a fair idea of his side at this point in time but the bond between the players has never been stronger.”

A competent free-taker, McComiskey stresses that as well as getting scores, the forwards are expected to work much harder off the ball and sees this as particularly important against Cork’s style.

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