Cork Credit Unions and Cork GAA announced a new three-year partnership this week that will see Cork Credit Unions as the Cork Football Leagues title sponsor. Photo: Jim Coughlan

Footballers face must win game

For the second weekend in a row, there will be four Cork teams in action in league competitions, but there is no doubt the one that has the most significance - the footballers’ trip to Portlaoise where they must win to avoid been dragged into a relegation battle.

Elsewhere events off the field with camogie and ladies football have dominated the pages and neither association are gaining much support for their decisions.

The cancellation of the 2020 All-Ireland Club Camogie Championships has angered the clubs involved and rightly so, even in a truncated season it would not take a whole of games to complete them. The ultimate accolade for a club player is to win county, provincial and All-Ireland medals to be denied that opportunity is not right and surely the Camogie Association should reverse their decision.

As for the Ladies Football, cancelling the Under 18, 16, and 14 All-Ireland Championships is also baffling given that they are to be played at provincial level, and again just a few games over a short period would complete these competitions.

Let’s hope both organisations will reverse their decisions and allow players do what they do best and play their chosen games, although whatever about the camogie, the lengthy statement released by Helen O’Rourke of the LGFA would seem they are not for turning.

Football

Cork v Laois

“Very disappointing especially after we started so well, but after that we faded badly and the concession of the two goals really finished the game.” The words of Cork football manager Ronan McCarthy in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Kildare.

As for the implications of the loss, “well it’s not nice to lose your opening game in a seven match league but to lose it in a three match group, makes it that bit harder.”

Can they still qualify? “Well if we win the next two games we can, and we take the positives from this evening get back to training on Tuesday and focus on Laois next Saturday.”

Giving an update on injuries, “a few lads are close to returning that will give us options, but Brian (Hurley) and Sean (Powter) both of whom left the field with knocks in Thurles, will be assessed.”

There is little doubt the importance of the game for both teams, as a second defeat - Laois lost to Clare - would mean promotion ambitions would be over, and when you consider Cork’s final game is in Ennis against Clare, then the task is simple, win.

Ronan mentioned the positives from Saturday, apart from the opening 15 minutes when they played good direct football there was very little.

Option taking in front of goal was poor; three times in the first half shots dropped into the goalkeepers hands, while other chances resulted in bad wides, while poor distribution directly led to Kildare scores in particular the second goal.

Cork are better than what we saw last week and the players will be hurting and I expect a positive response. Cork should be capable of winning.

Laois are in a similar position as they were poor in Ennis. Cork have generally got the better of Laois in recent years, but that will count for very little come 7pm on Saturday, let’s hope they have enough in them to win.

The match will be live on C103. Cork v Laois in the NFL Division 2 South is on at Portlaoise on Saturday at 7pm.

Hurling

Cork v Westmeath

“Baffled at some of the decisions I must say, but overall pleased at the display. We could have won but look it’s all part of the process in the league,” said Cork manager Kieran Kingston after the draw with Tipperary in Thurles.

He was not the only one that was baffled, the free count was 22-9 in the home side’s favour, and a number of them were of the soft variety. For the second game in a row Jason Forde rescued with Tipperary with 0-10 from placed balls.

Kieran was also pleased with the goals scored: “Yeah it was good, could have a few more but the effort was excellent all round; got valuable game time into a lot of players and we will continue that in the coming games.”

As for the Westmeath game on Sunday, “we will certainly not underestimate them, we got a tough game up there last year and we will treat them with the respect they deserve.”

As for the injuries, “Robbie (O’Flynn) came off with a hamstring, Seamus (Harnedy) and Shane (Kingston) have similar injuries so they probably won’t be available for the next game, but others will get a chance.”

Westmeath have lost their two games to date, losing heavily to Galway, but they were very competitive in a narrow loss to Waterford last Sunday.

A number of the younger players impressed last week and are likely to be included on Sunday, and while the priority is to win the game, getting game time into the players is also important.

Conor Cahalane, Tadgh Deasy and Alan Connolly all looked good when introduced, Alan Cadogan was busy and effective on his return, Mark Coleman oozed class and quality all through, while Billy Hennessey and Niall O’Leary were equally good.

It’s a game Cork should and probably will win, and after just two competitive games, the style they are playing is certainly drawing a lot of comment.

It may not be to everyone’s liking but it is clear that will be the game plan going forward and when executed well it works, as it did for Patrick Horgan’s goal and for Robbie O’Flynn’s goal against Waterford.

Sunday will afford another opportunity to develop it, all with one eye on the championship clash with Limerick shortly.

This game will also be live on C103. Cork face Westmeath in the NHL Division 1A on Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 3pm.

Ladies Football

Cork v Tippearary

A week on from the camogie team opening their season in the stadium, this time Ephie Fitzgerald’s side begin their 2021 campaign in the Páirc with a much-improved Tipperary side providing the opposition.

Cork are actually the holders of the league title won in 2019 - the competition was not finished last year - so they will be keen to get off to a winning start.

Martina O’Brien is the new captain and the vastly experienced goalkeeper will relish the role and with the bulk of last year’s team still as committed as ever, they will be keen to build momentum in the shortened league campaign.

Ashling Hutchins, Aine Terry O’Sullivan, Melissa Duggan, Orla Finn, Erika O’Shea and the Mourneabbey players make for a strong squad.

Tipperary’s stock has risen in recent years and the possess some excellent players in captain Ashling Moloney, Laura Dillon, Aisling Moloney, Lauren Fitzpatrick, Elaine Kelly and Caitlin Kennedy.

Cork’s last outing was the All-Ireland Final loss to Dublin, who they play on Saturday week, and even if first outings of any season can be difficult, even more so this year, the home side look better equipped to collect the points on offer.

In the Lidl Ladies National Football League, it’s Cork v Tipperary on Friday at Páirc Ui Chaoimh at 7.30pm.

Camogie

Cork v Kerry

Cork and Kerry in camogie would normally result in just one outcome - a Cork win, but there has been a huge improvement in the game down in the Kingdom, as evidenced by their win over Galway last week, so this could be a lively affair.

Ian Brick is their coach and he will have his charges fired up for this clash and their 0-14 to 1-8 win in the first round will have given them a huge boost. Aine O’Connor is their captain, while Patrice Diggin bagged 0-8 last week, Niamh Leen, Rachel McCarthy and Caoimhe Spillane all made important contributions in that win.

Cork themselves had an excellent win over Tipperary on the road last week and another victory would put them in a good position to progress to the knock-out phase of the league.

Lauren Callanan, Ali Smith, Finola Neville, Clodagh Finn, Rachel Harty, Aoife Hurley, Hayley Ryan and Stephanie Beausang impressed in Drom-Inch and will be keen to collect the points on offer, and home advantage might just give them the edge.

Cork face Kerry in the Littlewoods Camogie League Division 2 on Saturday at Castle Rd at 2pm.

Munster championship draws

The Cork minor and under 20 teams who returned to training last week, now know who they will play when the championships get underway and as with last year, the minors revert to straight knockout.

In minor football, Cork will face Waterford in a quarter-final with Kerry awaiting the winners in the semi-final, while in Under 20 football it’s old rivals Cork and Kerry in the semi-final.

In hurling, Clare provide the opposition in the minor quarter-final, while holders Limerick who have yet to complete the 2020 championship will play the winners in the semi-final.

Cork are the reigning Under 20 champions and have an All-Ireland Final in July to look forward to. They get a bye into the semi-final and will play either Tipperary or Waterford in the last four clash.

The Munster Council will confirm dates for these games shortly.

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