It is often said that a week is a long time in politics. Well, equally, that phrase could apply to sport.
Last week, defeats in both hurling and football had Cork supporters in despair, now the hurlers’ great win over Waterford has lifted spirits and hopefully the footballers can maintain that when they face Meath on Sunday.
This is a crucial game for Cork, probably one of the most important they will play all year.
Another defeat – and with games against Down and Derry to come – it will be a tough ask to avoid relegation; while a win, depending on results elsewhere, could give them an outside chance of promotion but the priority is to ensure we at least stay in the Division.
While I did not see the Clare game, the comments afterwards would suggest it was one of the poorest displays from a Cork team in a long time. There were some claims that the disallowed goal altered the direction of the contest, as it would have left just one point between the sides.
However, is that just papering over the cracks? Surely now is the time for the players to deliver a response with a win.
There is talent in the team but maybe confidence has been sapped by poor results and a return of three points from four games would indicate that.
Time was, of course, when a Cork vs Meath clash would be in the top tier of intercounty football and older supporters – and I include myself in this group – will recall the many great battles between these two teams in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Sunday’s encounter will hardly match the level of ferocity witnessed in those games.
Meath have had a mixed campaign but they come into this game on the back of an excellent win over Galway and it was achieved in typical ‘Royal’ fashion with a late goal, so they will travel south in a confident mood.
Manager Andy McEntee is a clever operator and while they are – in common with most counties – a bit off the level Dublin are at, McEntee will get them going in the right direction and come championship time, they will be well equipped for a good run.
Graham Reilly, Donal Lenihan – who scored 1-5 in the win over Galway – Padraig O’Rourke, Shane McEntee, James Toher and Brian Sheridan are among their key players who will certainly make life tough for a Cork team that must be short on confidence right now.
The composition of the Cork team will be interesting. How will the selectors react to the loss in Ennis and more importantly, how will the players react?
Injuries and Under 21 commitments might dictate the selection but what is needed now is for the leaders on the field to show the way. In this regard, the onus rests with the more experienced players; Michael Shields, Paul Kerrigan, Ian Maguire, Colm O’Neill, Brian O’Driscoll and Tomas Clancy should lead by example.
A positive response is required. Take example from the hurlers last Sunday, get that for a consistent 70 minutes and a much-needed win can be achieved, anything less and the prospect of Division 3 football looms ever nearer.
The news of Brian Hurley’s injury comes as a huge blow to both his club Castlehaven and Cork but even more so to the young player himself who was working his way back to fitness and heading in the right direction.
Here’s hoping that this talented young man can make a quick recovery and that he will once again be in a position to perform at the level we all know he is capable of.
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