Allianz NHL Division 1
Cork vs Clare
Fresh from winning the Munster Senior League, Cork begin the real serious business of what is a crucial season for both players and management.
Last year is one best forgotten, just two wins of any significance all season, and a huge improvement will be required. Cork, however, could not have asked for a tougher opener then the reigning league champions and under new management, Clare will be keen to lay down a marker.
Reports during the week that Clare will play with a degree of freedom could be worrying as there is a view that this is a very talented Clare team.
Cork have placed a greater emphasis on youth this season and the introduction of a number of these players will be watched with interest over the coming weeks.
The structure of the league leaves little room for error and with two home games to start with, Dublin are visitors next week. A win would do wonders but a loss and the pressure is on immediately.
The composition of the Cork team will not be revealed until Thursday night, but based on the teams that played in recent games, it will be an experienced one and a good start is vital.
Damian Cahalane and Luke O’Farrell are ruled out through injury and there is a doubt over Stephen McDonnell while, like most teams, they will have had players involved in Fitzgibbon Cup during the week.
Regulars Anthony Nash, Mark Ellis, Christopher Joyce, Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy and Alan Cadogan should all feature, while there might be starts also for Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, Dean Brosnan and Shane Kingston who could all be included having impressed in the games to-date.
Clare have a number of players injured and Ballyea’s involvement in the All-Ireland Club Semi-Final might restrict them, but the fact that Gary Brennan played football on Sunday and Tony Kelly Fitzgibbon Cup this week, would indicate they too will have a strong side on duty.
Hopefully, the weather will be kind the pitch is in good condition, and a good home crowd under the lights makes for a cracking atmosphere. Cork need a win to kick start their season, let’s hope they get it.
Allianz NFL Division 2
Cork vs Kildare
A point gained or a point lost - was the question put to Eoin O’Neill in Salthill after the draw with Galway last Sunday. His reply summed it all up: “Two points up in injury time you expect to win, but nothing is easy in this group and we are reasonably happy, disappointed with some aspects of our play – particularly shooting 15 wides – but we will look at it during the week and get ready for Kildare next Sunday.”
There was lots of positives to take from Sunday, particularly the excellence in defence of Kevin Crowley and Tom Clancy (Clonakilty), Ian Maguireand Aidan Walsh who all played well.
Paul Kerrigan took his goal well, Mark Collins worked hard and picked off two nice points, while the introduction of John O’Rourke, and in particular Colm O’Neill, brought a new edge to the Cork attack.
Kildare bounced back from the loss to Dublin’s third string side in the O’Byrne Cup to hammer Meath in Navan and that will please Cian O’Neill. They will certainly relish a Cork visit and with a passionate home crowd behind them, they will fancy make it two wins on the bounce.
Ben McCormack and Niall Kelly hit early goals and are growing in confidence, and with Daniel Flynn, the Cribbins – Paul and Keith – Neil Flynn and Ollie Lyons all impressing, it will take a huge effort form Cork to deny them another win.
Incidentally, both Cork games are live on C103.
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Last Saturday, Colaiste Chriost Ri and Tralee CBS played out a cracking Corn Uí Mhuirí Semi-Final that not even 20 minutes of extra-time could separate two evenly matched sides.
They scored 1-18 each with the majority of scores from play.
The replay is in Ballyvourney this Saturday at 1pm, and if it’s half as good as the drawn encounter, few will complain.
Cillian Myers Murray, Mark Cronin, Daniel Lucey and Mark Brosnan impressed for the Capwell side, who showed commendable spirit to force extra-time and then a replay, a more consistent 60 minutes on this occasion might just get them over the line.
Having failed to progress beyond the group stages for the last two years in the Fitzgibbon Cup, UCC will pleased that this year they have at least achieved that and an added bonus a home Quarter-Final against DCU on Tuesday at 2pm in the Mardyke.
Jack Barry, Colm Spillane, Seamus Kennedy and Jamie Barron are in fine form they should advance to the weekend phase of this fabled competition, but they will miss the scoring threat of the suspended Rob O’Shea.
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