All Ireland: Conor Counihan plans to stop Dublin sinking Cork
Cork manager Conor Counihan’s attention to detail is such that his in-depth analysis of opponents is very much part of the fabric of the current Championship campaign.
But Counihan has not been required to delve too deeply into Dublin’s tactical armoury to discover from where exactly the greatest threat might emanate when the sides meet in the first of the All Ireland football semi-finals at Croke Park tomorrow (3.30).
The danger is staring Counihan right in the face in the form of marksman supreme Bernard Brogan, one of the country’s truly outstanding performers over the course of the summer.
Brogan’s impressive scoring exploits have underpinned Dublin’s surge into the last four of the race for the Sam Maguire Cup and Counihan acknowledges that he has been singularly impressed by his stunning consistency.
“There is no doubt that Bernard Brogan is a class act. He has come up against what I would have rated as very good defences and yet he has still managed to pocket a lot of scores,” says Counihan (pictured above).
“You can’t argue with skill like that — we will have our work cut out for us on Sunday.”
It’s 20 years since Cork last took delivery of ‘Sam’, a famine that has occasioned deep frustration within the county — particularly as neighbours Kerry have been parading the biggest prize in football at regular intervals during that period.
If Brogan is to be manacled, Counihan will require a five-star performance from a defence that has conceded rather too many scores to date, despite his team having managed to keep their quest for the ultimate glory alive.
Captain Graham Canty has been passed fit and along with players like Michael Shields, Paudie Kissane and the fiery Noel O’Leary will lead the resistance against Brogan and Co. Alan O’Connor gets the nod in the Cork midfield alongside Aidan Walsh and Daniel Goulding, Paul Kerrigan while Donnacha O’Connor will carry a scoring threat up front where Ciaran Sheehan has also been listed even though he has had a troublesome knee problem lately.
Yet while Brogan has been on fire this year, Dublin are not a one-trick pony by any means.
Stephen Cluxton is the best goalkeeper in the land, Alan Brogan — like his brother — is a proven score-getter, Eoghan O’Gara has emerged as a tearaway full-forward and Bryan Cullen is a versatile footballer who has been playing a selfless role between defence and attack lately.
The manner in which Dublin overcame Tyrone has fermented the belief that they now stand an excellent chance of ending their 15-year wait for ‘Sam’, though much will depend on the ability of their midfield to supply the dangerous Brogan and his colleagues with the ball.
The Cork defence is not known for standing on ceremony and the discipline there could come into question should the Dubs replicate the wizardry they showed against Mickey Harte’s side.
But if the Leesiders’ physique, power and blistering pace up front are allowed to flourish then it could be an altogether different story.
CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, J Miskella; N O'Leary, G Canty, P Kissane; A O'Connor, A Walsh; P Kerrigan, P O'Neill, P Kelly; D Goulding, C Sheehan, D O'Connor.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimmons, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; K Nolan, G Brennan, C O’Sullivan; R McConnell, M D Macauley; N Corkery, A Brogan, B Cullen; D Henry, E O’ Gara, B Brogan.