Cork football manager John Cleary didn’t put a dent in it after his brave side were thwarted by a more experienced Dublin that benefited from the introduction of experienced foot soldiers in James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey to bag key scores in the second half to Sunday’s enthralling league tussle.
We deserved to get something but Dublin’s experience stood out, they found scores easier to come but we’re immensely proud of the lads, we kept battling, brought it down to two points and only the width of the post denied us,” said Cleary.
Space at both ends in the second half opened up after a couple of controversial sending offs saw Cork midfielder Ian Maguire and Dublin wing-back Lee Gannon unlucky to feel the wrath of red cards in separate incidents.
“It was a clean game, not a false stroke in it, in Ian’s case, just a fractional pull of the jersey earned a second yellow, likewise for the Dublin guy, it was very harsh. I don’t know if there is a new ruling, maybe at the start of each league, there are soft yellow and red cards,” said Cleary.
“The referee was not to blame for the defeat but the red cards were bizarre to both teams, when the championship commences, it will be the blood and thunder, hopefully, those cards will not follow suit,” he said.
With a shell shocked Maguire having exited the pitch, Cork appeared set for defeat, their challenge looked over on conceding scores but not a bit of it by hauling themselves back from the brink.
“Our backs were to the wall, it was a case of coming out to fight or Dublin were going to win by 10 or 12 points. By the end of the game, we’re very disappointed to be denied a victory, that’s a testament to where we are at now and we want to be competing against the top teams in the country,” said Cleary.
“We never got ahead in the second half, Dublin were able to hold their position, it’s two points that should have been won, but it’s a case of going back to the drawing board.”
On this performance, Cork are on the upward trend and though league promotion looks out of their grasp right now, they’ve bounced back from a disappointing showing against Meath in their initial outing.
“We’ve work done on our structure, we were well beaten last year in a number of games, this is another small step, there was encouraging play and performances but there is much to learn from playing Dublin,” said the Cork boss.
Room for improvement is required in terms of capitalising on chances, Cork’s inaccuracy helped Dublin gain a flattering narrow advantage at the break.
“We were shooting a little under pressure, it’s something to work on, today, we had five goaling opportunities. To date in the league, we’re creating goal opportunities, though no goals were scored against Meath, there were four chances, it’s all about converting a high proportion, ultimately, that’s why we don’t have the points against Dublin,” said Cleary.
One or two swallows don’t mean a hot summer, for Cork its consistency or a lack of it that surrounds the side time and again. And with Cork fancied to return to winning ways in the next two weeks, Cleary expects tough challenges on facing Munster opposition but if properly focused, Cork will be expected to bag a pair of wins.
“Next Sunday is big against Limerick, likewise, the following Sunday facing Clare, it’s a case of batting down the hatches and preparing. Cork have played Limerick regularly, recently in the McGrath Cup Final, they brought the margin down to three points during the latter stages.
“We need to turn up, a case of forgetting today, take the lessons and drive on. It’s about consistency and putting layer on layer everyday, no matter the opposition,” said Cleary.