Do or die for Cork seniors
A defining weekend for both Cork senior mens teams is in store as they both face must-win games or else their season is at an end, while undereage teams are still heavily involved in what is a hectic period for everyone.
Kerry are hot favourites
If we are to believe the pundits and the vast majority of the fourth estate, it hardly seems worthwhile for the Cork footballers to make the trip across county bounds on Sunday for the Munster Football Final.
The talk is already of a Kerry v Dublin final with Peter Keane’s men seen as the only team capable of denying the Dubs a seventh successive All-Ireland title. Of course, the same message was relayed last year, and we all know what happened.
For Sean Powter, who happily has recovered from injury, it’s always the next game that is the focus. “All year we prepare for the next game and that’s exactly what has happened since the win over Limerick, now Kerry are next and we are really looking forward to the match.”
Sean who missed last year’s final, says Kerry are favourites. “Of course we know how good Kerry are but we will work hard in the build up, prepare accordingly and be ready to give it our best shot on the day.”
For Manager Ronan McCarthy, the semi-final win over Limerick was a case of getting the job done. “I said before that game that Limerick had improved and they have; we went up, were comfortable all through and could possibly have won by more.”
Obviously there were aspects of the game that were disappointing but not a great concern. “Look you are not going to get the perfect performance every time you play, but by winning we can work on them and be ready for a massive test on Sunday.”
Ronan also confirmed that all the injuries have more or less cleared up. “Liam (O’Donovan) is back so barring the long-term lads out, we should have a full panel to choose from.”
There is little doubt that this is going to be a step up in class and quality to what Cork have faced all year, and apart from a poor 20 minutes against Kildare, they have done all that has been asked of them.
Kerry’s form has been excellent, the ease with which they saw off Clare and Tipperary is testimony to that. So good has been their form that captain Paul Murphy cannot get in the team, even if there is a view that defensively they are still vulnerable.
Shane Ryan fronts a defence that is likely to include Jason Foley, Gavin Crowley and Mike Breen, with the experienced David Moran anchoring midfield.
However it’s their forward unit that has entire country speaking about their quality: the Clifford brothers, David and Paudie, Sean O’Shea and Paul Geaney are lethal in front of goal.
Micheál Aodh Martin has done little wrong all year, Daniel O’Mahoney has been excellent at full-back, Sean Meehan has excelled at centre-back, while Powter apart from his defensive qualities has really shown his class with his powerful runs and point scoring. Kevin Flahive, Kevin O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor have coped well but they will need to be at their very best on Sunday.
Ian Maguire has been a powerhouse in midfield and his battle with Moran could be key, how the Cork attack will shape up will be interesting, especially after a somewhat below par performance last time out.
John O’Rourke, Luke Connolly, Brian and Michael Hurley, Mark Collins, Daniel Dineen, Ruairi Deane and Brian Hartnett are in the mix for selection in attack.
Cork are outsiders, but a wise man once said to me, the day you have no chance is your best chance, but it’s going to take their best performance of the season if they are to record back to back wins over our greatest rivals.
A final word on the attendance, I understand that Croke Park and Thurles were offered as alternate venues to allow more then the permitted 2,300 that will be in Fitzgerald Stadium but Kerry were unwilling to concede home advantage, it’s a pity and when you consider the town of Killarney will be jam packed and a 40,000 venue almost empty.
It’s a 4pm start on Sunday and it’s live on C103.
Hurlers head to Limerick
Two weeks on from the loss in Thurles to Limerick, the hurlers endeavour to get their season back on track with a tricky tie against an in-from Clare side, who will take huge confidence from their win over Wexford last week.
Brian Lohan is certainly getting the best out of his team and remember a controversial call swung their semi-final game against Tipperary away from them. The concern might just be a second week in a row in trying conditions and emotionally they were really up for last week given who was in the opposite corner.
Quality players in Colm Galvin, John Conlon, Aaron Shanagher, Aidan McCarthy and of course the real gem in the side Tony Kelly, will need to be curtailed if Cork are to progress.
Cork were competitive for long periods in the loss to Limerick, but failure to convert a few opportunities undermined their efforts.
Limerick too it must be said were much better last Sunday, especially in the second half and maybe Cork lost a good opportunity to actually upset the odds.
The composition of the Cork team will be interesting, and it might see little change particularly in defence, while Robbie O’Flynn looks like winning his fitness battle while Alan Connolly and Shane Barrett could be contenders for a place in the attack.
Sean O’Donoghue, Mark Coleman, Tim O’Mahoney and Ger Mellerick who might be given a man a marking role, should all feature.
From midfield up, a better return will be required, and here the contribution of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston, Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan could be crucial.
Cork will need to produce a consistent and committed 70 minutes if they are to extend their season, to set up a quarter-final a week later.
Interestingly, if Cork do win, and Galway get the better of Waterford, it sets up a Cork v Dublin clash as repeat pairings are avoided.
What a few days it has been for these teams and the possibility of a Munster double is now the objective, but both Tipperary and Limerick will have something to say about that.
First up tonight are the footballers who head to Thurles after their dramatic win over Kerry. They will not want to underestimate Tipperary who might have struggled against Waterford but will not fear Cork. In fact in a recent challenge game, Cork just got the better of the Premier County, who will home advantage.
This looks a very determined Cork side and the manner in which they defeated Kerry will fill them with confidence.
Colm O’Donovan, Diarmuid Phelan, Adam Walsh Barry and Darragh Cashman are excellent defenders, Brian Hayes is an inspirational captain in midfield, while in attack Jack Cahalane, Conor Corbett and Niall Hartnett look to have enough quality to win this decider.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh next Wednesday is the venue for the hurling final, it’s a repeat of last year’s semi-final which Cork won after extra-time.
Limerick impressed in their semi-final win over Clare with Byran Nix, Donnacha O’Dalaigh, Cathal O’Neill, Adam English, Jimmy Quilty and Patrick Kirby showed that momentum is strong in the Treaty County right now.
Cork’s stunning second half display in seeing off Tipperary will have filled them with confidence but they will also be conscious of their last encounter with Limerick.
Given their limited preparation, the manner in which they turned it around is testimony to the belief and depth within the squad, evident also by the impact made by the substitutes with vital scores.
There is a nice balance in the team, Daire O’Leary, Eoin Downey and Ciaran Joyce are solid and dependable defenders, Sam Quirke works tirelessly in midfield while the attack is littered with quality. Padraig Power, Robbie Cotter, Brian Hayes and Daniel Hogan - add in Ben Cunningham and Luke Horgan - are a class attack.
Limerick will test them, but Cork look that bit better equipped to retain their title and secure a place in the All-Ireland Final.
Fresh from their demolition of Clare in the quarter-final, Cork minors will face a much sterner test from what is a highly-rated Limerick side in Thurles on Tuesday night at 7.30pm, but it will take a very big effort from Limerick to derail this Cork team.
In camogie, both Cork teams are on the road in the All-Ireland Championship. On Saturday the Intermediate team open their campaign against Kildare in Hawksfield with a 1pm start and they will certainly miss the injured Ali Smith.
Páirc Elser in Newry is the venue for the senior clash of Cork v Down and anything other than a Cork win will be a major surprise.
In the All-Ireland Minor Championship, Cork travel to play Clare in their opening game, and having won the Munster title, they will be expected to get off to a winning start.