Cork GAA Hurling Manager Kieran Kingston said he is happy with the direction the team is going. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Dress rehearsal in Gaelic Grounds fast approaching

Another big weekend is coming up with three Cork teams in action.

This includes an intriguing encounter in the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night and important games in both camogie and ladies football.

The footballers have the weekend off before they face Westmeath in a relegation playoff which is being played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday 12 June at 2pm.

There has been much comment in the past few days about counties like Cork and Down, who breached the training ban, having home advantage for these games.

Some said they were being rewarded for breaking the ban, which is not correct.

Counties were punished and had no home game and the respective managers were suspended. Even without crowds would Cork have beaten Kildare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh instead of having to play in Thurles.

The result of that match ultimately cost Cork a place in the promotion semi-final, to be fair as well Cork were poor in the game.

Cork look to continue unbeaten run

Contrasting fortunes for Cork and Limerick heading into the penultimate round of the Allianz National Hurling League - Cork 5 from 6 and Limerick the reigning League champions, 1 from 6, and their chances of retaining the title gone.

Of course, there are bigger fish to fry for both these sides as they are due to meet in the Munster semi-final in Thurles on 3 July, where there will be an attendance of 5,000 as announced by the Government last Friday.

The approach to Saturday’s clash will be interesting, no doubt a bit of shadow boxing by both managers, which will probably be reflected in the team selections.

Limerick’s need is greater in terms of points and possibly a win to give them a lift.

Their last game in the group is against Westmeath and that will be of little benefit, so John Kiely might view this as their last meaningful test before the Championship.

Limerick will be without the suspended duo of Kyle Hayes and Seamus Flanagan but given the depth in the squad that will not unduly weaken them, the loss of game time is probably a bigger loss.

There is little doubt of the quality Limerick have. Nicky Quaid, Sean Finn, Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane and Tom Morrissey have all proven themselves at the highest level and will want to get back into a winning vein.

Kiely and his management team will see this as an ideal opportunity to let everyone know the champions are not gone away and still the team to beat.

Cork have been doing everything asked of them and at the same time getting important game time into the squad as they develop a new game plane which has all the hallmarks of the influence Donal O’Grady is having since coming on board at the start of the season.

Manager Kieran Kingston is looking forward to the game.

Speaking after the win over Westmeath, he said: “We did what we had to do today. In games like this you just have to get the job done and while the opening quarter was sloppy, once we rectified that at the water beak, we finished the game quickly.”

As for the coming games, Kieran had this to say: “Look, we have a week off now and then it’s two massive games coming up Limerick. We all know the quality they possess and after that it’s Galway so we will know a lot more about where we stand after those games, but right now we are happy with the direction the team is going in.”

Injuries have played their part and Kieran said that a few guys are still carrying knocks: “A couple of lads could be back for the next day, Shane (Kingston), Bill (Cooper), Declan (Dalton) and Seamus (Harnedy) could all feature next day, but Colm (Spillane) is a bit further down the road in terms of his recovery.”

Cork will again mix and match the starting 15 I would think, but certain that Patrick Collins will return between the posts, Mark Coleman and Bill Henessey might also return while in attack Dalton, Kingston, Robbie O’Flynn and Harnedy might also get a run out in a bid to improve their fitness levels.

Equally Damian Cahalane, Tim O’Mahoney, Luke Meade, Alan Cadogan, Niall Cashman and Robert Downey could all feature in a match where while points will be on offer I am sure both management teams will be looking at the performance with an eye on the big one in just over four weeks time. The game throws in at 7.15pm in LIT Gaelic Grounds and will be live on C103.

Cork v Down

Despite the fact that they lost in their final group game to Galway in Gort last Saturday Cork had done enough to progress to the quarter-final in Division 2 of the Littlewoods Camogie league.

They now head to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Saturday for a 5pm start with Down providing the opposition.

This will be a real test for Cork, as Down are the reigning All-Ireland Intermediate Champions and will play in this year’s senior Championship at their own request even though the Camogie Association had decided not to promote any team given the shortened season in 2020.

In the league they were in a three-team group and although they lost to Antrim in the opening round, a win over Derry secured their place in the last eight.

They have excellent players in Niamh Mallon, Karen Mc Mullen, Beth Fitzpatrick and Laura Clarke.

Cork had two good wins over Tipperary and Kerry and while last Saturday was a disappointment the fact that they had already qualified might have altered the approach of players and management alike.

In the earlier rounds they produced some smart play, and a repeat might get them over the line.

There is no doubt Down will start as favourites, but do not rule out a Cork win.

The Division 1 team having won their two games Cork along with Galway are into the semi-final, which will be played on the 12/13 June weekend.

Interestingly the Camogie Association have yet to release details of either the draw or dates for the All-Ireland Championship which are scheduled to start in a few weeks and of course are now without a sponsor following the decision of Liberty Insurance to opt out and focus on other projects.

Ladies football

Effectively a quarter-final in the Fraher Field on Sunday at 2pm between Cork and Waterford will determine who joins Dublin in the semi-final.

Cork and Dublin played out a thriller in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Saturday night, Dublin just shading it winning by one point, but Cork boss Ephie Fiztgerald was not to upset.

“Obviously I would have preferred to win, but Dublin are a powerful physical team and they showed their quality especially early in the second half, but overall delighted at how we responded.”

Continuing Ephie said: “We gave a lot of players a run out tonight, our fitness levels are good. We still have a few players out injured, we actually could have nicked a draw but look we get back to training during the week and get ready for Waterford.”

Cork struggled to score form play in the first half, but were a transformed team in the second period. Orla Finn, Ciara O’Sullivan, Sabdh O’Leary, Erika O’Shea, Mellissa Duggan along with dual players Hannah Looney and Libby Coppinger all made important contributions.

Time was when Waterford were the dominant team at this level, and there are encouraging signs that they are improving with every outing and they certainly showed that by hammering Tipperary last week.

In the process they scored 5-12 and in control of their own destiny in this group, effectively a winner takes all.

Eimear Fennell (2-5) and Maria Delahunty (2-2) shared four goals, Kate Mc Grath got the fifth goal, while Roisin Tobin, Katie Murray and Niamh Power all impressed in an emphatic win.

Home advantage might help Waterford but the odds favour Cork joining the All-Ireland Champions in the League semi-finals.

Disappointment for three Cork clubs with the news that the Munster Council have decided not to complete the 2022 Club championships which denies Mourneabbey, Clonakilty, and Valley Rovers a provincial title to add their County success late last year.

The inconsistency in this decision is baffling with other provincial councils finishing out the uncompleted competitions, surely the four council’s should be singing off the same hymn sheet.

Club action

It’s been a long wait, October to be precise, but finally club action across all codes gets underway on Monday next.

County Board Football League starts with games spread across all five divisions and the length of the county.

There are also fixtures in Camogie and Ladies Football and after a months training players and mentors will be glad to see the competitive aspect return in a build to the Championship in a few months time.

Best of luck to all, including the referees, who I am sure are also delighted to be playing their part as a degree of normality returns to the playing fields.