Crucial League games ahead
Both Cork mens’ teams are in action this weekend in important games - the footballers travel to Thurles on Saturday and the hurlers welcome Limerick to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday. Both games will be live on C103.
In the immediate aftermath of the impressive win over Down, manager Ronan McCarthy was delighted with the outcome: “This was a game we targeted as important for us to win, and now that we have done just that we can look forward to playing Tipperary.”
McCarthy made the interesting point that their season turned on a win over the same opposition last year. “We were well ahead but lost our way for a bit and were only hanging on in the end. But we know what Tipperary are like, they are a tough team to play and we will go away now and prepare for them as we do for very other team we meet.”
The only downside for Cork that day was the shoulder injury to Kevin Crowley and the unfortunate Millstreet player has now been ruled out for the remainder of the league and is doubtful for the championship.
Tipperary’s form has been mixed to date with just three points collected, and last time out were beaten by Derry and had two players sent-off while also failing to score from play. They drew with Down and had a narrow win over Louth who are pointless.
This would suggest that Cork should win, but if only it was that simple. Tipperary will raise their game on Saturday as they badly need a win if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
Evan Comerford, Conor Sweeney, Kevin Fahey and Brian Fox remain important players for the Premier County and they will relish the opportunity to end Cork’s winning run. The composition of the Cork team will be interesting, Crowley’s absence reduces the options in defence, which has seen Sean Powter, Liam O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor impressing in front of confident goalkeeper Micheal Aodh Martin.
Ian Maguire has been a powerhouse in midfield with great support from Brian Hartnett, and Killian O’Hanlon’s return gives them further options in that area.
In attack, Ruairi Deane and Ciarán Sheehan are key in attack, while Cathal O’Mahoney's willingness to shoot is the indication of a player playing with confidence.
Luke Connolly and Paul Kerrigan were kept in reserve for the last two wins, but when introduced, they showed what they have to offer, and with others returning from injury there is real depth in the squad which the manager has been striving to achieve in recent years.
Tipperary will be a test but there is a confidence in this Cork team and if they play as well as they have in recent games, it should be four from four at around 8.30pm on Saturday night and another step in the right direction.
An intriguing contest in prospect here; on one hand you have a Limerick side that everyone thinks are the team to beat in all competitions this year, against Cork who produced their two best displays against the same opposition last year and on both occasions it was in the Gaelic Grounds.
Limerick, with the depth in their panel, would appear to have put the disappointment of losing to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final last year behind them, if their early season form is a guide.
They won the Munster League, easily beating Cork in the final, and they followed that with two wins in the league. The win over Tipperary on the opening night in Thurles was very impressive and they followed that with a comfortable win over Galway.
All the while John Kiely has been using his panel to good effect, although the postponement of last Sunday’s clash with Waterford might upset his plans. Does he stick with the team named for that game or will he alter it again?
Whatever 15 he puts out, they will be strong and eager to lay down a marker ahead of the championship meeting between the same teams on 10 May.
Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch, Declan Hannon, Graeme Mulcahy and Gearoid Hegarty are all quality players which presents Cork with a real test.
Cork were not overly impressive in the win over Westmeath last Sunday, even allowing for the dreadful conditions.
Just three points ahead at half-time turning to play against the elements, they knuckled down and worked hard in the second half and got the required result, which is all that can be said about a poor game.
Colm Spillane, Bill Cooper and Robert Downey - when introduced - all impressed in defence, while up front the scoring return from play was poor, but Patrick Horgan’s accuracy was once again a factor on the day. Seamus Harnedy and Declan Dalton also made important contributions.
It is likely that the UCC contingent of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston and Mark Coleman should return as will Alan Cadogan which certainly makes for an interesting team selection.
A win would almost guarantee Cork a place in the knockout phase of the league, but unless there is an improvement on last Sunday, the odds favour a Limerick win. But the home side are well capable of winning, especially in front of what should be a bumper crowd.
The occasion will also see Cork wear a one off, black in colour, specially commissioned jersey which will honour former lord mayors of the city, Tomás MacCurtain and Terence McSweeney, both of whom died in office in 1920.
The footballers will wear the jerseys for their clash with Derry next month, and the County Board are to be commended for this initiative, recognising two men who made an important contribution to our city.
With three wins from three, including defeating All-Ireland champions Dublin, Cork should take another step in securing their place in the Lidl National League Final when they play Mayo in Cloughduv on Sunday at 2pm.
Two Cork schools have Post Primary All-Ireland Colleges Camogie Finals on Saturday.
In the Tesco ‘B’ decider, St Mary's Midleton play Loretto Beaufort from Dublin in St Rynagh’s Ground Banagher at 1pm, and the Cork school will look to Ali Smith, Anita Hurley and Aimee Morgan, who are all current Cork minors, and under 16 player Aoife Healy.
In the ‘D’ Final, Coláiste An Chroi Naofa Carrig Na bFhear play Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown from Kilkenny in Clonmel, also at 1pm. Emma Murphy captains the team, with Cliona Martin, Tara McCarthy, Meaghan Martin and Sarah Aherne leading their bid for a historic first title - best of luck to both Cork schools.