Cork goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin leaves the pitch to receive medical attention during the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Kerry last month at Páirc Ui Rinn. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cork footballers in a bid to extend their season

A first championship meeting with Louth since the qualifiers of 2009 followed by a league clash in 2020 both won by Cork is the big game of the weekend while both Cork Camogie teams continue their Championship campaigns.

As for the hurlers they will keep an eye on the Joe McDonagh Cup Final between Kerry and Antrim as they face the winners a week later in a preliminary quarter-final, with Cork on the road for this game.

All-Ireland Football Qualifier Rd 1

Cork v Louth

“It’s home draw that’s important but any team with Mickey Harte in charge will be well prepared and hard to beat, but we are looking forward to it, have trained well since the Kerry game and hoping to keep our season alive.”

That was Cork selector Des Cullinane speaking in the immediate aftermath of the qualifier draw.

Injuries continue to trouble the squad. Kevin Flahive is now joined in the absent list by his club colleague Brian Hartnett whose hamstring injury effectively end’s his inter-county involvement for this year. As for goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin, Des had this update: “Micheál is working away on his rehab. We will give him every opportunity but with limited ball work done since the injury, the game might just come too soon for him.”

On the plus side Chris Kelly is fit: “He is and in contention which is good and if Micheál does not make it, we would have full confidence in Chris.”

The re-action to the defeat by Kerry was surprisingly positive, but Des made the point: “While we were competitive we still lost by 12 points and that is not really what we are about, so now we must build on that and make sure we go the distance and more importantly win the game.”

Louth had an excellent league campaign - topped Division 3 and then beat Limerick the league final and were in confident mood approaching the Leinster Championship.

In the opening round they were comfortable winners 5-10 to 0-10 over Carlow. The talented Sam Mulroy bagging 2-5, Kildare were next up and they were in confident mood ahead of that game, but it all went wrong on the day.

They trailed at half-time by 0-13 to 0-5, at one point it was 0-10 to 0-1, in the end the winning margin was 2-22 to 0-12 no doubt a setback, now how will they respond. Harte and his backroom team will have worked hard since that game, probably refining their defensive set-up which is how they have been playing all season, numbers behind the ball and they try and break quickly, but the emphasis is more on defence which their manager is renowned for. James Califf is a solid goalkeeper, while Bevan Duffy, John Clutterbuck and Niall Sharkey anchor their defence, with Tommy Durnin and Conor Early their midfield pairing.

Mulroy is their key man in attack with good support particularly from Conor Grimes, and if this duo is contained they could struggle for scores.

How will Cork line up? With Flahive out it will of course mean a change in defence. Assuming Kelly gets the number 1 shirt, the possibility is that Sean Powter will take over from Flahive, maybe to mark Mulroy, as against the sweeper’s position that he performed so well against Kerry, in fact for long periods the effort was excellent. Maurice Shanley belied his long absence with a great display, while debutants John Cooper and Rory Maguire were very good as were Mattie Taylor and Kevin O’Donovan, Kerry did cut loose late on but the Louth attack will not be as dangerous. That said the men from the Wee County will travel in the belief that this is a game they can win, and Harte will instil this belief in the team.

Ian Maguire is the real heartbeat of this team and despite coming into the game with an injury he was heroic for the 70 plus minutes, 4 weeks on he will be fitter and just as determined with Colm O’Callaghan offering excellent support. The attack will need to deliver, the return the last day, was not good enough and will not if they are to prolong their Championship interest.

Steven Sherlock has been the star of the show so far, while Cathal O’Mahony kicked some great points, and the experienced duo of Brian Hurley and John O’Rourke will look to improve on recent outings.

Brian Hayes could feature while Eoghan Mc Sweeney showed what he is capable of with a neat point when introduced.

Because Cork are home the view is they will win, but it does not work that way although their record this year in Páirc Ui Chaoimh is good, one defeat to Galway, they are well capable of winning, but a more sustained effort for the 70 plus minutes is required.

Contain the threat Mulroy offers up front and a better return from the Cork attack should be good enough to put them into Monday’s draw, a win would be a further boost to the squad defeat would represent a serious setback, that can and should be avoided. Let’s hope the Cork support which was excellent against Kerry last time out turn up in numbers for this game on Saturday at 2pm, which is also live on C103.

All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship

Cork v Dublin Saturday at 5pm

Two unbeaten teams in Group A meet in St Peregines GAA where the winners will go a long way to securing a place in the knockout phase of the Championship.

Cork, have 2 wins from 2 while Dublin drew with Tipperary last weekend having beaten Waterford in their first game.

The way Cork saw off Clare was very impressive that coming just 2 weeks after the sides played out a thrilling Munster Final that took over 90 minutes to resolve.

Cork took control from the off and 3 brilliant long range points from Chloe Sigerson set the trend and a brace of goals either side of half-time by Amy O’Connor put the outcome beyond doubt.

Clare to be fair kept plugging away and there reward was 2 goals, and equally Cork goalkeeper Amy Lee made a couple of very good saves.

The Cork half-back line of Saoirse Mc Carthy, Laura Hayes and Laura Tracey are probably the best in the business right now and the ability of Hayes and McCarthy to go forward and hit quality points is a huge plus.

Ashling Thompson continues to thrive in midfield while Catriona Mackey’ eye for goal is as good as ever, and with more game time Orla Cronin is really showing what she brings to the team.

Coach Matthew Twomey was delighted with the win: “Very pleasing we knew what Clare could bring so we got a grip early and made it very hard for them, it keeps the momentum going and now we can prepare for Dublin as they are also going well.”

Matthew also expressed his views on the dual player issue that dominated the build up to the game: “We made every effort to avoid the clash, Clare agreed to switch to Sunday, but the LGFA were unwilling to change and that is just not good enough, if they want integration they first need to get their own house in order.”

Dublin were denied a win over Tipperary when Cait Devane’s 7th point squared what proved to be a thrilling match, with Niamh Treacy, Niamh Gannon, Aisling O’Neill, Ali Twomey and Kerrie Finnegan impressed for Dublin.

Their manager Adrian O’Sullivan was happy with the draw: “Well we could have won it when they were reduced to 14, but that said Tipperary have been in Al-Ireland semi-final for the last four years, so happy, 4 points from our two games is a good position to be in, but we have another big game next week in a very tough group.”

Cork will get a test that is a given but the depth in the squad and with no distractions they should remain unbeaten.

Intermediate Camogie Champioship

Cork v Kilkenny Saturday Páirc Ui Rinn at 5pm

Good opening day wins for both of these teams who would be the favourites to emerge from the group and the winners of this game could very well end up as table toppers and claim top spot.

Cork with goals from Hayley Ryan, Rachel O’Shea and Cliona O’Callaghan set them on their away against Wexford while Niamh O’Leary, Leanne O’Sullivan, Joanne Casey and Lauran Callanan all impressed.

There are a few injury worries in the Cork panel and that will impact on team selection and might winning this game that but harder.

Bryan O’Loughlin RIP

Bryan sudden passing on Monday last has evoked much sadness within the GAA community and of course his family coming so soon after his wife passed away late last year.

Bryan was a gentleman and a welcome for everyone when he was on duty in Páirc Ui Rinn or Páirc Ui Chaoimh. He filled many roles, a long standing and highly respected delegate for his beloved Kanturk, acted as an umpire with Frank Murphy for many years officiating at some of the biggest games at provincial and national level.

In recent years he was a thorough and very efficient Secretary of the Cork County Board’s Hearing’s Committee and his fairness and attention to detail was remarked upon by so many since the news broke of his untimely passing.

His presence will be missed by all, none more so then by his loving family to whom my sincere sympathy is extended at this very sad time.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.