Pivotal weekend ahead
The various national leagues are nearing their conclusion and for Cork teams that could end this weekend.
Well for the footballers and hurlers it is their final game, but hopefully the ladies can extend their campaigns by another week.
Football relegation play off
In the immediate aftermath of their win over Clare in Ennis, a rarity in recent years, Cork Manager Ronan McCarthy had mixed feelings: “Delighted with the win but disappointed that we are out of the promotion race, we have ambition to get to the top division but now we have to concentrate on Westmeath in two weeks time.”
The manager also made the interesting point that: “It’s a thin line between success and failure. We are the only team with four points that are not in the promotion semi-finals and by the same token we have four points we face a relegation play off.”
“It is what it is. We have two weeks to prepare which will help as some of the lads are carrying knocks and only getting limited training in, but we will be ready and hopefully get the job done.”
Since then though the injury situation has not improved and the three players who left the field in Ennis, Sean Powter, Daniel O’Mahoney and Ciaran Sheehan, are ruled out for Saturday’s vital game.
Of the three, Powter and O’Mahoney should return in time for the championship semi-final in a few weeks time, but Sheehan’s injury is a bit more serious and is rated extremely doubtful for his club’s Éire Óg County Football final against Mallow which is down for 19 June.
This is a huge game in terms of the development of what is essentially a very young team and if it were to make an immediate return to Division 3 it would be a blow, so the pressure is on to deliver a match winning display.
Westmeath finished pointless in their group but did run Down close in their last game and have quality players in John Heslin, Ger Egan, Ray Connellan, Brandon Kelly,
Ronan Wallace and Luke Loughlin and will feel that all the pressure is on Cork in this game and that could work to their advantage.
Cork were impressive for the most part in Ennis, scoring 0-22, 18 from play, which is no mean achievement especially considering the way Clare set themselves up with an organised and disciplined defence.
A few minutes before half-time really undone Cork where they conceded a couple of points that ultimately kept Clare in the game, so a consistent 70 minutes will be required on this occasion.
The composition of the team will be interesting but if Kevin Flahive, Micheál Aodh Martin, Ian Maguire, Mark Collins, John O’Rourke and Brian Hurley can deliver big games Cork should have enough quality to get over the line and then fully concentrate on the championship. The game is in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday at 2pm and will be live on C103.
Allianz NHL Cork v Galway
At half-time in the Gaelic Grounds last Saturday night Limerick led Cork by 0-10 and were playing with such authority, there was every possibility that they would double that lead by the end of 70 minutes.
That they didn’t is testimony to Cork’s improved second half display, helped by the changes made at the break and Kieran Kingston was delighted with the response: “Look we were in real trouble at half-time and that is down to the quality Limerick have in their team, I was delighted with the response and told the lads let’s try and win the second half which they did and now we switch to the Galway game.”
It must be said that Limerick needed to win a lot more then Cork did last week, considering their final group game against Westmeath will tell them very little. It was also a case of laying down a marker for the re-match in the championship in four weeks time.
The league might not actually be played but a Cork win and a Waterford win over Tipperary will likely see Cork and Kilkenny as the finalist and were they to meet in the championship later in the year that will double up as a league final.
That though is for another day and right now the focus is on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 1.45pm and with it being the last serious test before the championship begins both will want to end this strangest of leagues on a winning note.
The decision not to play a final, irrespective of the tight schedule, has in my opinion devalued the competition. It’s been a bit like a series of challenge games, a phoney war in many respects with one eye on the championship.
Galway looked very impressive in their win over Waterford and Brian Concannon looks like a real threat in front of goal - a nice ally for Joe Canning, and with Conor Cooney, Adrian Tuohey, Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan, Eanna Murphy and Darren Morrissey all showing excellent form Shane O’Neill’s side look like been serious contenders for championship honours.
Cork will look to bounce back from last week and it is expected that a much-changed team will be named for this clash although doubts persist about the availability of Bill Cooper and Colm Spillane - two very experienced performers.
The manager did suggest that Alan Cadogan, Seamus Harnedy, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Tim O’Mahoney and Sean O’Donoghue will all likely return.
What Cork will look for will be a performance obviously they will want to win, but a good consistent 70 minutes is the priority. Confidence took a blow last week especially when the game plan built on the puck out strategy broke down. They will want to restore that and like everyone else have an eye on 3 July in Thurles.
As with the football game it’s live in C103 and a welcome addition is that there will be 200 spectators in attendance which should add ever so slightly to the occasion.
Camogie and ladies football
A busy weekend is coming up for a trio of Cork dual stars as Hannah Looney, Meabh Cahalane and Libby Coppinger face two big league semi-finals in 24 hours. A tough ordeal but at least they are not on the one day, thus avoiding the need for the players to make a choice.
First up on Saturday in Pearse Stadium Tuam it’s Cork v Donegal in the Lidl Ladies Football clash and tough test for Ephie Fitzgerald’s side as the Ulster county powered into the last four with an easy win at the weekend and are reputed to be a big strong physical side.
Cork struggled for periods in the win over Waterford and the failure to score for 18 minutes will be a concern. It’s noticeable that the absence through injury of key players is not helping them.
This will test them but in Ciara O’Sullivan, Erika O’Shea, Mellissa Duggan and Orla Finn they have the players capable of getting a result but an over reliance on Finn will need to be addressed.
Meanwhile Cork now play Galway, who also had a free weekend, in the Littlewoods National Camogie league semi-final in Nowlan Park Kilkenny on Sunday at 5pm.
In recent meetings between the sides Galway have had the upper hand.
Cork have played in spurts in their recent games but do have quality in Laura Treacy, Amy O’Connor, Orla Cronin, Ashling Thompson, Linda Collins and Chloe Sigerson and that maybe enough to get them over the line.
Interestingly both Finals in Camogie and Ladies Football will be played in Croke Park on the following weekend as part of the Government’s trialling the return of spectators an added incentive for the Leeside girls.
In Munster Under 16 Camogie Championship Cork play Tipperary in Castle Road On Sunday at 2pm.
The decision of the Ladies Football Munster Council not to proceed with completing the 2020 Club Championships is a huge blow to the three champions Mourneabbey, Clonakilty and Valley Rovers who surely are entitled to win a provincial title, and it seems there is little chance that it will be reversed.
Finally last weekend saw the return of Football Leagues across the county. This weekend it’s the turn of the hurling clubs to get back into competitive action and several attractive games down for decision.
The big one is without a doubt a repeat of the County Senior Final when Blackrock play Glen Rovers in Church Road on Saturday night at 6pm.