Browne has confidence in Cork
August 31, 2006
Few know the Cork set-up better than John Browne, who won All-Ireland medals in 1999, 2004 and 2005 and was part of the squad earlier this year. While wary of the threat Kilkenny pose to their three-in-a-row hopes, the Blackrock man is confident that Cork's 'no panic' policy will see them prevail.
If things had turned out differently, John Browne could be bidding to win his fourth All-Ireland medal when Cork clash with Kilkenny on the first Sunday in September.
Instead, the Blackrock defender will be confined to the role of spectator as the Rebels attempt to emulate the great Cork team of the late 1970s by achieving a three-in-a-row of All-Ireland successes. Browne, who played in Cork's All-Ireland final victories over Kilkenny in 1999 and 2004, and was a substitute in last year's triumphant campaign, was part of the squad earlier this year, but was told just before the National League got underway that his services were no longer required.
"I've no problem admitting it - I was dropped," he says.
"I went on the team holiday to South Africa after Christmas and trained up until the beginning of February when I left the panel. I had been troubled with a hamstring injury for most of last year and I was also in the process of opening my own dentistry practice, so it probably worked out for the best. I mightn't have been able to give the commitment in any case.
"I've no hard feelings about what happened, although I must admit I miss being part of the build-up to the All-Ireland final."
John, whose brother Alan was also an All-Ireland winner with Cork in 1999 and captained the team in the 2003 final defeat to Kilkenny, accepts that he would have found it very difficult to break into the team if he had remained part of the squad.
"When you lose your place in this Cork team, it's very hard to get it back. Look at Wayne Sherlock - he's one of the best defenders in the country yet hasn't been able to get back into the team since getting injured last year.
"The Cork management won't make any changes unless they really have to. The team now is basically the same as it was three years ago. It's extremely settled. The lads who are there know one another inside out."
The Douglas-based dentist attributes Cork's dominance of the All-Ireland scene over the past few years to their professional approach and 'no panic' policy. He also highlights the key roles physical trainers Gerry Wallace and Seanie McGrath have played in keeping the players finely-tuned.
"Cork's big strength is their dedication. The commitment the lads show is unbelievable. Even when we were in South Africa, we trained about four times. This was to ensure that we didn't fall too far behind in our training.
"The whole set-up has been very professional since Donal O'Grady's time as manager. Every situation is planned for meticulously. There are masseurs and physios at every training session. Everyone wears the same gear in training and on match day - it all looks so professional.
"Some people say that Cork have been lucky with injuries, but I would put this down to the type of training they're doing. Gerry Wallace and Seanie McGrath really know their stuff and never overdo the training. There's no such thing as having training the day before a match. If there was, players would be at a far greater risk of getting injured. The two lads have them primed for every match."
He adds: "Another of Cork's strengths is that they never change the system they play. The word 'panic' isn't part of their vocabulary. Cork never panic and they never give away silly frees. They always seem to be able to work their way out of trouble.
"You could see that in the game against Waterford. When Cork went four points down, they didn't panic but Waterford did when they fell behind. That's what made the difference in the end."
The most Cork have beaten any team by in this year's championship was six points in their first round clash with Clare. They defeated Tipperary by three points in the Munster final and had just a point to spare over Limerick and Waterford in the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
"They're not overwhelming teams like a couple of years ago, they're doing just enough to win," Browne acknowledges.
"Everyone knows Cork's style of play at this stage and teams are learning to counteract it. I'd be a little bit worried that Cork are letting teams coming back at them when they appear to be in control. But I'd sooner be getting tough matches than easy ones. I'm sure Kilkenny will be delighted to have got such a tough game from Clare after being untested up until then."
Browne, who won a Fitzgibbon Cup medal with UCC in 1997 before winning a National League in his Cork debut season of '98, feels that some of the Rebel County's marquee names have been underperforming to date this year, but adds that others have really stepped up to the mark.
"The likes of Sully (Diarmuid O'Sullivan) and Sean Og (O hAilpin) aren't playing as well as they can, although Sean Og had a very good game against Dan Shanahan in the semi-final.
"But you can only admire how well fellas like Ronan Curran, Donal Og Cusack, Brian Murphy, Brian Corcoran and Joe Deane are playing. These guys are playing out of their skins and have been hugely influential in all of the games this year."
John doesn't believe that Cork will be in anyway burdened by expectations to deliver a third Liam McCarthy Cup on the trot. However, he expects Kilkenny to put up a mighty challenge, with revenge for 2004 a big motivating factor for him.
"Kilkenny will be going all out to stop Cork from doing the three-in-a-row and will be hungry for revenge after Cork stopped them from achieving a similar feat in 2004. Kilkenny were very hurt by that defeat and the manner in which they collapsed in the second half.
"They have brilliant forwards, but I don't think their defence is as good as Cork's. They have done a lot of chopping and changing at the back this year and it remains to be seen if JJ Delaney will be left at full back to mark Brian Corcoran. Delaney is an outstanding player, but I'd have my doubts if he is physically strong enough to mark Brian.
"While the Cork public is caught up in the three-in-a-row hype, you can be certain that the players aren't even talking about it. They'll just be focused on winning the match. If they win, then I'm sure they'll dwell on what a magnificent achievement it was."
Overall, Browne believes Cork are the better team with midfielders Tom Kenny and Jerry O'Connor set to give them a vital edge.
"The game will be won and lost in midfield and that's an area where Cork are especially strong. Kilkenny probably feel they have come up with a midfield pairing (James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick and Derek Lyng) suited to play Cork, but it's still hard not to see Kenny and O'Connor making an impact. These guys chip in with a few points in every game and can do so again in the final.
"I've a lot of confidence in this Cork team. They're strong in every position, have lots of experience and rarely lose a close match. If they can beat Kilkenny to win the three-in-a-row, it will make it all the sweeter," he concludes.
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