2 huge games this weekend
It's a defining Saturday for two Cork teams: the footballers head to the Gaelic Grounds for a Munster semi-final against Limerick and unlike the hurlers it’s straight knockout, while after a long wait, the Cork under 20 hurlers finally get to play the 2020 All-Ireland Final in Nowlan Park.
Tricky tie for footballers
“People say we should win, but why should we and unless we play well we won’t win.” The words of Cork football boss Ronan McCarthy ahead of the semi-final, against a side that racked up 4-18 in their quarter-final win over Waterford.
Time was when a meeting between these two sides would result in just one outcome - an easy Cork win - but not anymore as Billy Lee has moulded a nice side together and with a championship game under their belts and home advantage, Cork will not be underestimating the challenge they face.
Ironically the last championship meeting between the sides did result in a comprehensive win for Cork, yet on the night Limerick should have got a goal within 30 seconds of the start. As it was, before they did actually score, Cork had put the game beyond them.
A reminder also that Limerick came within a whisker of beating Tipperary in the Munster Championship last year and we can all remember what Tipperary did to Cork in the Final.
Both sides had mixed league campaigns. Cork only lost once but that was enough to deny them a promotion play-off place, while Limerick did make the play-offs before being denied a place in Division 2 by Derry.
Ronan is well aware that they face a tough task: “Limerick have a game under their belts and will feel confident of winning and it’s easy to see why; they had a good league and have benefit of a game that they won easily.”
Ronan said the league campaign had been good and just one bad 20 plus minutes was their undoing. “Yes it was either side of half-time in the Kildare game was costly, but overall we did well and the win in Ennis was a huge boost just not by enough to get us into the play-offs.”
The Westmeath game brought up different issues: “Well we conceded a lot of scores and in the interim, we have worked hard on the defence to try and rectify that, but by the same token we got some great goals and happy enough at the win.”
Injuries have upset the makeup of the team but Ronan accepts that part and parcel of the game,
“It’s disappointing for the lads that have got injuries but all should be okay for the game and this while it’s upsetting it has afforded other lads an opportunity to put their hand up for a place on the team.”
Ronan was also glad of the three week run in to the game after a hectic few weeks of league action. “It has been good, we worked on a few aspects of our game and happy enough with our preparation and if we play to our potential we are good enough to win.”
For team captain Ian Maguire this is what the season is all about - championship football in the summer. “This is what we train all year for, sunshine and good weather, we have trained well and are really looking forward to Saturday.”
Ian shared his manager’s view of the league but was particularly pleased with the win in Ennis, “that was an important win for us, it’s a venue where we have not done to well over the years and apart from a conceding a soft penalty, we could have won by the required amount to get a play-off but that aside, the win was vital.”
The ‘Barrs man has been inspirational all season and his surging runs have upset most defences this season and he is enjoying his football.
How the team will shape up will be interesting, will Sean Powter and Daniel O’Mahoney shake off their recent injuries to feature, both were playing well and are key components of the side?
Michael Hurley and Eoghan McSweeney could also come into contention.
What is certain is that Micheál Aodh Martin, Kevin Flahive, Sean Meehan and Mattie Taylor will man defensive duties, Paul Walsh looks set to partner Ian Maguire in midfield.
The attack has racked up big tallies in the last two games; Luke Connolly, Mark Collins, Brian Hurley and Ruairi Deane are capable of unhinging any defence.
Limerick looked very impressive in their demolition of Waterford whose challenge never got off the ground.
Iain Corbett is a key player for them and gets good support from Robbie Bourke, Cian Sheehan, Danny Neville, Tommie Childs and Hugh Bourke and they will enter this game in confident mood.
Cork are favourites and will need to impose themselves on this game from the outset and not allow Limerick gain any momentum, if they can do that - especially in midfield with Maguire and Walsh - that should give them the platform to fashion win.
Unlike the hurlers, this is straight knockout, and this format clearly angered the Cork boss: “It’s a disgraceful decision it shows scant regard for the footballers in the country, last year I could understand, but this year with a small bit of imagination and forward thinking it could have been achieved. Look at the number of counties whose season is over in a short numbers of weeks after all the effort.”
Let’s hope that Cork’s season does not end on Saturday.
The game is another test event and 3,500 supporters will be allowed attend the game which has a 3pm start and is live on C103.
Important final for Cork
It is said every final is important, but in the context of Cork hurling, this is vital, given that in recent years we have lost finals at minor and under 20 level, and it’s been too long since an underage title landed on Leeside - this one would end the years of heartache.
Cork manager Pat Ryan pays no heed to such statistics but accepts the importance of this game. “It is very important, any All-Ireland Final is but we are just looking at it as just another game and focusing on getting the players ready for what is a big occasion.”
The long wait, 23 December to be exact, has not helped. “We coped, the lads came back in great shape worked hard on their own and now it’s a case of sharpening up ahead of the game.”
Dublin were surprise but deserving winners over Galway and further boosted by the seniors win last Saturday and having the semi-final a couple of weeks ago does not concern Pat. “It’s something we have no control over, it will help Dublin of course, but it is what it is and now we are ready for the game.”
Cork have impressed in their games to date and the fact that a number of players have featured in the senior team will help in what is a very strong and well balanced side.
Eoin Roche, Conor O’Callaghan, Daire Connery and Joyce are excellent defenders while up front Alan Connolly, Shane Barrett, Colin O’Brien, Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane will trouble any defence and are well versed in the art of scoring.
Dublin showed their capabilities by defeating Galway and are a big physical side and in Liam Murphy, Lee Gannon, Daire Purcell, Darach McBride, Eddie Gibbons, Andrew Dunphy, Darragh Power and Kevin Burke.
They will travel in confidence and will not fear Cork, in fact recent meetings at underage level between the counties have been tight and keenly contested affairs.
This one should be no different but Cork’s attack looks to have more firepower and that should get them over the line for a match that has a 7.15pm start and is live on C103.
The Cork Ladies Footballers begin their championship campaign with their first game in the group phase. They face a tricky enough looking tie when they play newly crowned Division 2 League winners Meath in Birr on Saturday at 2pm. They should win but will need to guard against complacency for this opener.
In camogie, Drom-Inch is the venue on Sunday for the meeting of Cork and Galway in the semi-final of the All-Ireland Under 16 A Championship with a 1.30pm start.
The Junior B 2020 County Finals are down for decision on Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn. In hurling at 1pm, it’s Midleton v Ballyhea, while at 3pm in football Mallow meet Carrigaline.
Next week will see the opening games in the Divisional Section of the 2021 Senior Hurling and Football Championships.
On Tuesday it’s Imokilly v Muskerry, while on Wednesday in hurling at Banteer, Duhallow play Muskerry - both games at 7.30pm.
Also on next Wednesday night, the Cork minor hurlers open their Munster Championship campaign with a quarter-final clash with Clare in Thurles at 7.30pm.
Cork are favourites and if the form shown by the likes of Eoin O’Leary, Ben O’Connor and the Ballincollig duo of James Dwyer and Tadgh O’Connell is any indication, they should justify that tag, but with limited preparation a win of any sorts would do right now.