Throw-in for intercounty games
After a weekend with little or no action, this weekend all going well should see the resumption of intercounty activity with four Cork teams involved in important games.
I suppose it’s fair to say that given the situation we find ourselves in, every game is important as it brings us closer to some degree of normality, which even now seems a long way off. The worst part of course is that the matches that are now being played will all be behind closed doors, which will make for a somewhat surreal atmosphere, especially for the bigger games.
Cork vs Kerry and Cork vs Waterford are huge games in name but in reality, the championships could be classed as a second National League with heavy pitches, floodlights, and in hurling the ‘yellow sliotar’.
Cork vs Louth
Almost seven months after it was originally scheduled, Cork will finally get the opportunity to clinch promotion from this Division against visitors Louth who are pointless and almost certain to be relegated.
During the week it emerged that along with Liam O’Donovan, Ciarán Sheehan, Tom Clancy (Fermoy) and Kevin Crowley will play no further part in this year’s games.
Doubts also surround Sean White and Sean Powter, with the latter the more worrying of the two, which is a pity because Powter impressed in the game he played with his club Douglas in the championship.
On the plus side, Ruairí Deane is almost back to full fitness and will get better with more game time, while Mark Collins, who did not feature in the league, gives the management further options in attack.
Ronan McCarthy, whom I spoke to during the week, is happy with how they have adapted since the return to training: “It’s gone very well, numbers were small initially but the club cancellations last week, while disappointing for the players involved, were helpful to us.
“It allowed a lot more players to get back training and to be fair to the lads their attitude and application has been spot on since they returned last Tuesday week.”
While the focus is on the Kerry game in a months’ time, for now they need to get the job done on Saturday.
McCarthy continued: “No question, win or draw, and we are promoted with a game to spare that will help as we’ll then get game time into some players who might need it and then extra training for others, so our attitude on Saturday will be let’s finish what we started back in January.”
The composition of the team will be interesting but expect to see Micheal Aodh Martin, Ian Maguire, Paul Kerrigan, Brian Hartnett and Mattie Taylor included as Cork look set to retain their unbeaten run in the league.
Cork’s final game is away to Longford on Sunday week, who depending on results this weekend, could be in contention for promotion. But first up it’s Louth on Saturday with a 4pm start in Páirc Ui Chaoimh and it’s live on C103.
Cork vs Clare
A changed format as with all competitions this year, so instead of the round-robin format it reverts to straight knockout, and Cork have been handed a very tough draw if they are to prolong their championship campaign.
The recently concluded Premier Minor 1 Championship produced some excellent games with a very high standard, especially the final between St Finbarrs and Sarsfields, and a number of these players are likely to be involved.
Ben O’Connor, Ben Cunningham and William Buckley were central to the ‘Barrs ultimate success while Glen Rovers duo Eoin Downey, who captains the team, and Eoin O’Leary will also feature.
As with most counties’ preparations, collective training will have been limited but the selectors were out in force at all the minor games and will have been pleased with what they saw.
If that form can be maintained for this game, Cork could win against a strong Clare side, to set up a semi-final with Limerick in a couple of weeks’ time.
1pm start for this game in Semple Stadium Thurles on Saturday which has always been a happy hunting ground for Cork teams.
Cork vs Offaly
This game is somewhat overshadowed by the events coming down the tracks, with both Cork teams fixed to play on the same day.
On 7 November Cork play Kerry in the Ladies Football Championship with the camogie team scheduled to play All-Ireland champions Galway in what is certain to be the crucial game in the group.
How two so called responsible bodies could arrive at this schedule is beyond me, and it’s not the first time it has happened. Surely in this day and age some level of communication should have been adopted when the scheduling was being drawn up.
It is of course an exceptional year, but it has been stressed that all the players involved want is 24 hours between games, the powers that be should have factored that in when fixing both games.
Galway have offered to defer the camogie game until 8 November, which if agreed, will solve that issue, but further complications could and probably will arise if, as expected, both Cork teams make progress.
Much has been done, and more needs to be done, to ensure camogie and ladies football are on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
But when the respective governing bodies, in this case the camogie and ladies football associations, cannot sort out a simple fixture matter such as this, why should others bother?
All that is for another day, the focus for manager Paudie Murray is Saturday’s opener against Offaly at 2pm, venue to be confirmed but Cork are travelling to the Faithful County.
There are a number of injuries to contend with, among them Laura Tracey, Libby Coppinger and Julia White, who look unlikely to start.
On the plus side Amy O’Connor looked sharp against Waterford in Killeagh last Saturday, Ashling Thompson was dominant in midfield, while Orla Cronin, Pamela and Catriona Mackey, and Hannah Looney all played well.
Interestingly, Gemma O’Connor lined out at full-forward and that could be an interesting concept as the championship evolves.
Even with the injuries and the controversy over the fixture scheduling, this is one game that Cork should win to get the campaign off to the best possible start.
Under 20 Hurling
Cork vs Kerry
Of all the games this weekend, this one is easy enough to predict.
This is a very strong looking Cork team with a number of senior panellists involved, among them the recently added Shane Barrett of Blarney and Blackrock’s Alan Connolly.
Pat Ryan has prepared his charges well, even in the limited time available, and with the expected win it sets them up nicely for a semi-final with Limerick a week later.
Daire Connery, Brian and Eoin Roche, and Robbie Cotter are likely to be included for what should be the ideal warm up for tougher tests that lie ahead.