Throw-in time for National Leagues
The phoney war is over as the pre-season competitions are over for another year, indeed there is a view they should be scrapped altogether, that however is a discussion for another day. As it is, the opening games of the Allianz National Leagues will kick-start a hectic period for both of Cork’s mens teams.
Manager Ronan McCarthy has cautioned against Cork getting a comfortable passage in Division 3, saying: “There are no easy games, and with Down and Derry in the equation, we will have to be at our best in every game.”
McCarthy said getting a good start is vital. “In the last few years we have had poor starts and that has cost us, so getting a win on Saturday would give us confidence for the rest of the campaign.”
The manager also confirmed a few players will not be considered for Saturday, among them James Loughrey, Brian Hurley and the Nemo Rangers contingent have only returned to training recently and won't feature.
Cork’s success at minor and under 20 level last year has boosted the football fortunes within the county, particularly the under 20 win and a number of those players have been drafted into the panel and will almost certainly feature during the campaign.
Saturday’s opponents Offaly, under manager John Maughan will be well organised and had a good run in the O’Byrne Cup. But, like Cork in the McGrath Cup, fell at the final hurdle to Longford.
For a variety of reasons some players opted out of the squad but they still have quality players in Bernard Allen, Anton Sullivan, Shane Horan, Jordan Hayes, Oran Kenny and Rian Brady, and despite their loss to Longford, they will relish the opportunity to take the scalp of a Cork side that qualified for the Super 8s last season.
The introduction of the Tier 2 championship is something Cork will be keen to avoid, especially with Kerry waiting in the Munster semi-final on 24 May.
Promotion to Division 2 would guarantee Cork will play in the championship proper, irrespective of the Kerry result.
A good run in the league would also boost the team and management who have been working hard in pre-season and, the Limerick result apart, McCarthy has been pleased with the work the team have put in.
Interestingly, Cork have yet to win a game in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium - granted not too many have been played there, but it would be nice to finally end the sequence of poor results.
The composition of the Cork team will be interesting but it will include a number of experienced players in Mark Collins, Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon, Liam O’Donovan, Mattie Taylor and possibly the returning Ciarán Sheehan.
Sean Powter may also feature while Brian Hartnett, Damien Gore and Cathail O’Mahoney could all see game time.
This could well be considered Cork’s most important game of the year. McCarthy has said as a group they have addressed the issues that disappointed them in the defeat to Limerick, the new rules will also be a factor, but it’s a match Cork must and should win.
A short few weeks after winning in Fraher Field, Kieran Kingston takes his side back into the heart of the Déise county for a meeting with Waterford where Liam Cahill will be keen to reverse the result of that encounter.
A bit like the footballers, the hurlers enjoyed a good run in the Munster League - that is up until the second half of the final against Limerick where the wheels came off the wagon.
Kingston was very disappointed with that fade out. “It's hard to explain because we had been going well, but look we have to put it behind us and move on.”
The manager also accepts there is little room for an error in a six team group. “No room at all, one defeat puts you on the back foot, so in that regard we are hoping to get off to a winning start but we know going to Walsh Park is never easy.”
Daniel Kearney has opted out, Christopher Joyce and Mark Ellis are recovering from injury while Colm Spillane, after a year out, is being eased back in gradually. His return is a boost as the Castleyons player is a quality defender.
Philip Mahony’s decision to call time on his intercounty career robs Waterford of a very good player, but they can still call on the likes of Kevin Moran, Conor Gleeson, Jake Dillon, Stephen Bennett and Patrick Curran, all good players who will relish facing Cork.
Cork will field a strong side, and with All-Ireland champions Tipperary on Leeside a week later, they will be determined to make a winning start.
Anthony Nash should be between the posts, while Damien Cahalane, Eoin Cadogan and Bill Cooper will anchor the defence.
Mark Coleman, Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Patrick Horgan and Robbie O’Flynn will all be important if two points are to be collected. Not an easy venue to win in, but Cork to shade it. Both Cork games will be broadcast live on C103.
Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 1pm is the venue for the Dr Harty Cup semi-final where it's CBC vs Midelton CBS, a repeat of last year’s final which drew a crowd of over 7,000 - in fact more then attended the County Senior Hurling Final.
Midleton CBS are the holders, and on the evidence of form shown in the games to date, are slight favourites to repeat their victory of last March. But at this level, and with a local derby, do not rule out a win for Christians.
The Cork ladies footballers make their long awaited appearance in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday when they play Westmeath at 4pm ahead of the Cork vs Offaly clash and Ephie Fitzgerald’s side will be expected to make a winning start in defence of their title.
Cork, on the back of wins over Kerry and Galway, head to John Lockes Ground in Callan County Kilkenny where they will play Kildare in the final of the John Kerins Under 20 Football Tournament and it would be nice to collect this cup ahead of the Munster Championship and also for the fact it commemorates one of Cork’s finest players.