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Mark Landers: 'Declining' club scene not helping Cork

Updated: Tuesday, 08 Mar 2016 13:33 | Comments

A ten-point winning margin somewhat flattered Dublin as they put Cork to the sword at Croke Park
A ten-point winning margin somewhat flattered Dublin as they put Cork to the sword at Croke Park

It many not be a fully-blown crisis just yet, but Cork's poor start to this year Allianz League has raised more questions about the county's status amongst the hurling elite.  

The Rebels are generally priced at around 16-1 to win this year's All-Ireland, with six counties above them in that book. 

On Saturday evening, Kieran Kingston's side were well beaten by Dublin at Croke Park. Earlier defeats to Galway and Waterford leaves them bottom of the pile in Division 1A. At this remove, a relegation play-off beckons. 

And while Cork came so close to winning Liam MacCarthy in 2013 and regained Munster in 2014, after a gap of eight years, there is a sense that the present side lack the necessary toughness to put it up to the Kilkennys and Waterfords of the world. 

Former Cork captain and selector Mark Landers believes a lack of physicality is contributing to the side's poor form at present, but also highlights the structure of the club scene in the county at present as a main stumbling block in developing talent.

Speaking on RTÉ 2fm's Game On, he said: "Every forward line in Ireland at the moment knows they can take on the Cork defence and get some joy. Look at the way Johnny Glynn for Galway ran through for that goal last summer (In the 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final). 

"Our championship in Cork has been in decline for the last decade" 

"Stephen McDonnell will have questions to ask as captain of the team as to how he let Eamonn Dillon get round him so easily on Saturday evening. In that game we played with seven defenders, with Mark Ellis in a sweeper role. They were trying to cut down the spaces. There just seems to be no physicality."

Assessing the club championship in Cork, the 1999 All-Ireland winning captain added: "Our championship in Cork has been in decline for the last decade, with not enough matches. Every other county has moved to a league format, yet we are the only county playing half a knockout championship.

"Most of our clubs are only getting two, maximum three competitive matches in the year. That has been going on for about ten years. No matter how many people say it to the county board or executive that we need more matches, they are still putting their head in the sand in not allowing clubs get more meaningful games. That is a big, big problem."

The net result of all of this, according to Landers is that "players are coming through in a non-competitive environment and there is no continuity in bringing our minors and U21s on, as has been the case in Limerick and Waterford in recent seasons." 

Despite a somewhat gloomy picture being painted by the Killeagh clubman, he is hopeful that an upturn will come about for the remainder of the league and upcoming championship.

"At this moment in time, things don’t look good for Cork. But they can turn it around.

"Pat Ryan (selector) is in there, the most successful club manager-coach we've had for the last decade with his club Sarsfields.

"We need to get behind team, management and players. But the players need to step up to the plate.   

"We are in a low place and I'm disappointed we have not shown more fight. We need honesty and straight talking and the players need to put the shoulder to the wheel against Kilkenny next weekend."      

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