James Loughrey has been on the pitch against the Dubs, Kerry and Tyrone but he can't see past a five in a row for "lethal" Dublin
JAMES Loughrey has played against Dublin, Tyrone and Kerry in the last four weeks and the Belfast born Cork defender hasn't seen convincing evidence that a team from the chasing pack can halt the Dubs' ‘drive for five' this year.
The former Antrim star, who switched to the Rebels after moving to Mallow in 2012, hit the back of Tyrone's net with a first half piledriver on Saturday. The Red Hands rallied to win the crucial game by three points meaning that, after losing their Super 8 opener to the Dubs, Cork's season will end with a dead-rubber against Roscommon.
He'll watch the final stages of the Championship race play out with an eye on the two Ulster sides but says “lethal unit” remain the team to beat.
“It'll be interesting with Donegal and Tyrone in there,” said the former St Brigid's clubman.
“But Dublin are a pretty lethal unit at the minute, especially with some of the boys that are coming back.”
Loughrey added: “Tyrone are Tyrone – that was their fifth game in-a-row and they are unbelievably fit, unbelievably conditioned and they know exactly what they're doing.
“It will be interesting to see how they go in the next step against Dublin.
”Obviously it hasn't worked out for them in the past couple of years and they tried something different against Donegal to counter that so it'll be interesting to see – maybe they'll cover their hand against Dublin the next day because they're already through but they'll probably need to do something different against a phenomenal Dublin team.”
Loughrey's goal briefly put Cork in the boxseat on Saturday evening but Tyrone changed tactics at personnel at half-time. The Red Hands came roaring with an unanswered 2-2 in four seconds half minutes to seize control of a game that had been slipping away from them.
“We didn't capitalise on the really hot period we had in the first half and going in 10-5 up at half-time wasn't enough to be honest,” said Loughrey.
“We thought at the time that is was because we were going well and we really target the third period but Tyrone flipped it on its head and really did it to us. It's hugely disappointing, hugely disappointing.
“Moving Mattie (Donnelly) inside – and he wouldn't be really known as an inside forward – caused us a lot of bother. He's a top quality player so he's going to do that but usually you see him in midfield or the half-forward line getting on the ball and running at you.
“He did something different and it probably was the difference in the game.”
Loughrey didn't start Saturday's Croke Park clash.
“I played atrocious against Dublin and got deservedly dropped,” he said.
He replaced the injured Thomas Clancy after 12 minutes and made an immediate dramatic impact when he ran on to Ruairi Deane's pass and beat Niall Morgan with a right foot bullet that whistled into the top corner.
“I don't know how I got a shot past a top keeper like Morgan,” he said.
“It was good defending actually because the defender didn't go to me at, he stayed on Hurley who is obviously the dangerman and let me have a shot. I'd say it was a 1 out of 10 more than anything. I'll take it but I'd have preferred to take a win to be honest.”
After a disappointing League campaign ended with relegation to Division Three, Cork's Championship form came as a welcome surprise on Leeside. The Rebels' produced decent displays against Kerry, in the Munster final, Dublin and Tyrone but ultimately failed to get over the line in any of the crucial games.
“We need to take the next two weeks seriously and have a good cut at Roscommon to build for next year,” said Loughrey.
“Realistically that's all we can do because this (losing to Tyrone) is hugely disappointing. If we had made the right decisions in the last 15 minutes against Kerry we would be Munster champions and we'll look back on today with some more regrets, that's for sure.
“But at the same time we did turn our season around and it has been hugely positive that way. We are playing the way we know we should play and we want to play. It's a very honest brand of football, there's no guys you wouldn't want to play with or go out with – they are just a great group of fellas.”