Cork selector Pat Harnett says puck-out strategy will 'be huge'
By John Harrington
The accuracy of Anthony Nash’s puck-outs have been a big weapon this year for the Cork hurlers.
Time and again, his ability to pick out his forwards with laser-guided deliveries has led directly to scores.
Cork selector Pat Hartnett admits a successful puck-out strategy will form a big basis of the team’s game-plan again on Sunday.
“We’ve really concentrated on our own hurling and the execution of the basics,” says Hartnett.
“Everyone has to be an option for the puckout. It is the purity of the hurling really, absolute concentration on the basics.
“You want to get contaminated ball coming out of the opposition back-line. You don’t want to give someone pure crystal ball where they can pick someone out.
“So the forwards need to put the backs under pressure so that ball is contaminated, in other words, he is not giving the ball he wants to give. That has a knock-on effect on everything.
“We know there are between 32 and 38 puckouts per game. So, we can control those if we are delivering them.
“The way we set up, we will try minimise them from their puckouts. It is a huge area of the game. There are 70 puckouts per game. That is one a minute. It has a big bearing on things.
“You want to have as few as errors as you can. Those who make the fewest errors, normally, win. There has to be absolute concentration on basics, mastering the basics as much as you can.”
In the Munster SHC Semi-Final, Waterford played without a sweeper for most of the game and were picked apart by Cork.
They've surely learned some lessons from that and it would be a big surprise if they didn’t line up with a sweeper this time around in an attempt to prevent Nash finding his half-forwards with those accurate puck-outs.
“They’ve been quite successful in what they’ve been doing over the last number of years, but it will be interesting to see what way the set up,” says Hartnett.
“I thought they had a really good game against Kilkenny. Against Kilkenny in the league in Nowlan Park, they did well, as well. Ultimately, what way we set up will have a bearing on what way they will play.
“We know Waterford play a number of different systems, rather than just one. They play a number of different systems within the game itself.
“You don’t know what way they are going to set-up the next day. All we can control is the way we are going to set-up. It is very fluid. It is different to days gone by where lads were fixed to their position.
“There is such fluidity and movement. The opposition has a bearing on what way the other team sets up. Systems are general blueprint, but that adapts and varies during a game.”
Cork have already beaten Waterford three times this year – in the Co-Op Superstores.ie Munster Hurling League, the National League, and the Munster SHC Semi-Final.
Winning the Munster title will surely have boosted the confidence of their players, particularly the new kids on the block, but Hartnett doesn’t think previous wins will count for much going into Sunday’s match.
“It is a win. You salt it away then. Semi-finals are there to be won. We are at the business end.
“One thing we can’t control is match temperament. It is like an exam, how a fella performs is all on the day.
“Obviously, the stakes are getting higher and higher as we go along. To date, they’ve performed well under pressure.
“Their hurling is good, their basic hurling is really good. We didn’t give them that. They brought that with them.
“Their natural athleticism, their natural hurling, that’s their own capital.”