Sunday 22 July 2018

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Cork Independent

Game On

Season defining game in Portlaoise

Wednesday, 4th July, 2018 4:03pm

Leaving Páirc Uí Chaomh two weeks ago after the mauling from Kerry, Ronan McCarthy and his management team and players were as shell shocked as anyone.

Since then, the Junior and Under 20 footballers have suffered defeats to Kerry, though not as heavy, and now their season and Cork's football fortunes rest on Saturday's game in Portlaoise.

Ironically, being paired with Tyrone might not be such a bad draw, that's if Cork actually play, because of all the teams (in the draw) our record against them is quite good - better then most in fact.

Of course Tyrone have the benefit of a couple of games under their belt and confidence restored after their early exit from the Ulster Championship.

By contrast, it's Cork's first outing since the Kerry debacle and they will be under pressure to at least perform.

Injuries will have upset the plans, with Colm O'Neill and Peter Kelleher joining Sean Powter on the list of those unavailable for Saturday.

Very few players distinguished themselves in the Munster Final, although Mark White, Ruairi Deane, and to a lesser extent Ian Maguire, were the exception.

The composition of the starting 15 is interesting, with the selectors making five changes from the side that started the Munster Final.

James Loughrey, Cian Kiely, Brian O’Driscoll, Brian and Michael Hurley have all been drafted in for Saturday’s game.

The one thing management will demand, and indeed expect, is a far more committed performance and an increased work rate all over the field. If that does not happen, it could be another long evening.

It is well known the type of game Tyrone play and in Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Ronan O'Neill and Conor McAliskey they have players capable of punishing any slackness by Cork.

What was interesting was Mickey Harte's comment that “we got the toughest draw possible”. Was he referring to Cork's good record against his county or an expected backlash from a wounded animal? Saturday will tell us all.

In the immediate aftermath of the defeat in the Park, Ronan McCarthy said to the assembled media: “We have two weeks to sort ourselves out, we can go away and lie down and finish our season the next day, or we can come out fighting and show we are better than what we have just seen.”

Cork do have good players; Luke Connolly, Maguire and Deane must now show the leadership that is required to rescue their season and give them a spot in the Super 8's which, as I mentioned last week, would be a huge step in the right direction for the players and management who have worked very hard all year.

There is no doubt Tyrone are favourites and will be expected by many to win, but there's surely a kick in this Cork team - let's hope it comes on Saturday.

County championships

After weeks of inactivity, these championships spring back into action this weekend, with a number of games in Round 2, for which defeat will mean the season is over.

There are three games in Intermediate Hurling: Ballinhassig were well beaten by Glen Rovers in the first round and might find Blackrock another handful; Grenagh will be expected to get over St Finbarrs, while Na Piarsaigh might just edge Dripsey.

In Intermediate Football, Mayfield have strung an impressive league run together and should account for Carrigaline.

Glanmire will need to be at their best to see of Gabriel Rangers, while an improving Kinsale look to be too strong for Ballinora.

Camogie

An extremely busy weekend for Cork teams with several in action at various venues around the country.

In The Ragg on Saturday at 5pm, Cork take on old rivals Tipperary in Round 3 of the All-Ireland Senior Championship, and while that's a tricky venue to play at, there's enough experience and craft in this Cork team to make it three from three.

Similar story with the intermediate team who make the long trip to Swatragh in county Derry to play the home side, also at 5pm, and again Cork will be fancied to maintain their unbeaten run.

One must question the time for this game, surely an earlier start to facilitate Cork's journey home? I would make the same point if Derry were travelling; it should have been considered.

Munster Hurling Final

Last Sunday was a strange one for me. A family wedding in Spain meant I missed Cork's brilliant win over Clare, but I was ever so grateful to my colleagues in C103 as John Cashman and Tom Nott brought me all the action, and my thanks to them both, top class always.

I have sat beside them so often over the years, and just get so used to them, but Sunday made me really appreciate their value to so many people who, for various reasons cannot get to our games, and long may that continue, thanks lads.

Of course the result made it all the sweeter, and maybe now people outside of Cork will start taking this team seriously and roll on the semi-final!

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