How Tim O'Mahoney did exactly what he was supposed yet Tony Kelly still made hay 5 months ago

How Tim O'Mahoney did exactly what he was supposed yet Tony Kelly still made hay

What's a man like Tim O'Mahoney supposed to do?

Tony Kelly shakes his hand just before throw in but from then on, Tony Kelly did what Tony Kelly does.

The Ballyea maestro is named at centre forward but just like jack-in-a-box, there isn't a hope of him staying where he is. He feints one way and then the other and this is before the referee has even pressed his stopwatch.

This is going to be a long night.

By the time the ball is thrown in, Kelly has raced in behind the four midfielders scouring the Páirc Uí Rinn surface for a breaking ball and there is already the clear daylight of 25 metres between himself and Tim O'Mahoney.

And there's not much the Newtownshandrum man can do about it.

From then on, Kelly buzzes around the place with all the freedom of a bullock just let out of the shed for the summer. He goes whenever and wherever he wants while O'Mahoney is in reality, hamstrung by his responsibilities.

Tony Kelly spent much of Saturday's game in his own half of the field

That's because the primary function of a centre back on a hurling team is to hold the centre. You'll always hear managers telling their half back to keep in line and if he goes walk-about, it won't be just the manager who's in his ear.

The whole backline revolves around this because if the number six deserts his station, there's a gaping hole straight down the centre and that's when the opposition can make hay.

So points, one, two, three, four, five and six sailed in over his head but O'Mahoney was fairly blameless. Kelly is a genius in full flight and he thrives on the balls that break his way and the breaks were coming his way out there on Saturday.

For this point, O'Mahoney was a good thirty yards off Kelly.

But O'Mahoney had to do what a centre back does.

And while it may not have looked good on the centre back that his marker was the man-of-the-match and ended his night with six points from open play, those that watched the game could clearly see that O'Mahoney was one of its most effective players.

He pucked a fair few balls himself and with his touch and reading of the game around the half-back-line majestic, his delivery of the ball from deep was always perfect for the Cork forwards.

Sweeper

Few centre forwards will roam with the same freedom as Kelly but it would have been an effective strategy - for this game only - by Cork to drop out a man-marker from the forward line just to curtail his influence.

Ken McGrath faced the same situation many times in his playing career and while the Waterford legend suggested dropping a bit deeper to cope with a man like Kelly, that suggestion seems to be underestimating just how far out Kelly was dropping himself.

"Do I stay or do I protect the house as such?...

It's the debate facing centre backs everywhere, but in reality, they have to stay.