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Dublin: -1°C Thursday 15 April 2021

'It's relief, with ten minutes to go it didn’t look good' - rescuing Cork from defeat

Donncha O’Connor was central to Cork’s recovery on Saturday night against Waterford.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

BEFORE SATURDAY NIGHT, the most recent championship trip to Dungarvan for the Cork footballers was in May 2009.

That Sunday afternoon was a stroll in the sunshine as they galloped to a 14-point victory. Donncha O’Connor started in that game and finished up top scorer as he struck 1-5.

On Saturday at the Fraher Field the 36-year-old’s scoring haul proved far more valuable for Cork, chipping in with three key points after being sprung from the bench in the 45th minute.

Cork squeezed past Waterford by a single point and in a frantic finale doubts began to creep into O’Connor’s mind.

“I would be lying if I said it didn’t.

“To play Tipperary at home in two weeks’ time is the first thing that came into my head with seven or eight minutes to go.

“I said that ain’t going to happen, or will it happen? You always think of something negative. But you can’t dwell on it, it has to get out (of) there straight away.

“It’s relief, with ten minutes to go it didn’t look good. But we dug in there near the end and we got over the line.

“We know that if we don’t improve we will go out of the Munster championship.”

Donncha O'Connor Cork footballer Donncha O'Connor (file photo) Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

O’Connor demonstrated all his experience and attacking class when coming on.

Cork were struggling to prise apart Waterford’s packed rearguard to notch scores. O’Connor rectified that on three occasions with a point from play off his left, a close-range free and then a point kicked over with his right.

He’s not concerned about not being able to command a starting place, securing positive results for Cork is all that interests the Ballydesmond man.

“All that matters is that Cork win. If I don’t play another minute of championship for the rest of the year and Cork win, it doesn’t bother me.

“When you are younger you might think I want to be playing and you are greedy. I came on full-forward for Peter (Kelleher). Peter set up two goal chances in the second-half.

“If those two goals went in we would be talking about the one-handed catch he got and laid it off. I just want Cork to win, whether that means playing or not playing.

“It was easy scoring into these goals. The wind was just there, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Tommy Prendergast dejected at the final whistle A dejected Tommy Prendergast after Waterford's defeat. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

O’Connor felt Cork did not get up to the required tempo in the opening period, a factor at the root of their troubles.

“Just in the first half there, I don’t think we went for the game. We weren’t going at 100%. We seemed to be going at 80%. It just looked that way from the sideline.

“It’s different when you are playing, you do feel that you are going that way. Second-half was a bit different. There was more buzz to us. We were unlucky not to get two goals in the first two minutes of the second-half.

“It might have given us a little bit of breathing space and we could have opened up a bit. But we didn’t and we need to improve.

“In the first half we were breaking up the field pretty well but when we got to their wall then we slowed it up which suited them. In the second-half we were coming at pace and it helped us.”

O’Connor does not agree the team is hampered by a lack of confidence. He pointed to their resolve in the closing stages and insisted they need to hone in on improving over the next fortnight before they face Tipperary on 10 June.

“With ten minutes to go we didn’t look like we were going to win the game. It might have been level, I’m not sure. But we dug in there.

“You could have easily have just said; ‘We are not going to get over the line here.’ A lot of our lads dug deep.

“John O’Rourke played well for us. Paul (Kerrigan) kicked a nice score near the end. Colm (O’Neill) was winning ball. (Ian) Maguire came on and was running at them.

“Loughrey set up a couple of scores in the second-half and won a free. He made the runs at the right time. Mark Collins got into the game a good bit in the last ten minutes, so it does count for a lot.

“It’s hard to say if confidence is a problem on the pitch, I don’t think it is. Other people might think so but I don’t know.

“We need to do all that again in two weeks’ time but we need to do it for 70 minutes.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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