Damien Cahalane during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match between Waterford and Cork at Walsh Park in Waterford. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Big weekend for Cork teams

There are 2 vital games for the Cork seniors as the business end of the season gets ever nearer.

The hurlers make the long trek to Belfast while for the 2nd game in a row the footballers will enjoy the home comforts of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

In camogie with 2 wins on the bounce, the Intermediate team will look to make it 3 on the bounce when Meath come to town, and the minor footballers also chase an All-Ireland semi-final place.

All-Ireland Hurling Championship

Cork v Antrim

Having rescued their season with good wins over Waterford and Tipperary, Cork will be warm favourites to progress to the quarter-final and a meeting with Galway, when they face Antrim on Saturday in Corrigan Park Belfast at 2pm.

This has the makings of a dangerous outing, even though it would represent a huge shock and setback were Cork to lose, but Antrim are coming in on the back of a thrilling win over Kerry in the Joe Mc Donagh Cup Final, and also had a decent league campaign where they made life difficult for teams visiting the tight confines of Corrigan Park.

An attendance of under 4,000, the majority of them supporting Antrim will strive to impose themselves on Cork and upset Kieran Kingston’s men, who have had 2 good weeks training since the win over Tipperary and are selecting from a full strength squad.

Cork have faced Antrim in the Championship before, nearly always in Croke Park and while under-age teams have played in Belfast this is the first time the seniors will play there.

Antrim people love their hurling and, despite everything, work extremely hard to keep the game going, but their geographic location makes preparing teams in terms of challenge games difficult but under current manager Darren Gleeson, they have enjoyed an exceptional season, retain their D1 status in the league backing that up by winning last Saturday.

Gleeson and his squad will relish the challenge Cork will present and you can be sure there was a buzz in training this week ahead of this game.

The win over Kerry was watched by Kingston in Croke Park and he will have been suitably impressed by the quality that Antrim possess, but this will be a different game.

Cork will not allow them the time and space that Kerry did, and how they respond will shape the outcome.

Cork will endeavour to get a grip early on, quieten the home crowd and then set about winning the game.

This Antrim side have good solid hurlers who if allowed could trouble any side, especially Conal Cunnning who scored 1-12 last Saturday, Eoghan Campbell although doubtful with a hamstring injury, Keelan Molloy, Neil Mc Manus, Dan Mc Kernan, Conal Bohill, James Mc Naughton, Ryan Elliott and David Kearney.

They let a big lead slip last week and the exertions of that match might take it out of them.

Cork will probably change very little from the last outing. Patrick Collins will once again have Robert Downey, Mark Coleman, Damien Cahalane and Niall O’Leary fronting him.

Darragh Fitzgibbon is in a rich vein of form right, while Luke Meade has added an extra dimension to the midfield.

There’s options a plenty in attack with Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston, Patrick Horgan, Alan Connolly and Conor Lehane.

It’s a potential banana skin for Cork especially if there is any degree of complacency within the group, but given what’s at stake that is highly unlikely.

Cork have too much quality and class all over the field and that should be enough to ensure the journey home will entail planning for a trip to Thurles and a quarter-final a week later.

It’s new territory too for the 96FM/C103 GAA team as it’s a first live commentary from Belfast.

All-Ireland Football Qualifier Round 2

“It’s a draw we would have taken, but then at this stage there are a lot of good teams left in the Championship, but getting to play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, again is another bonus, we seem to play well there.”

That was Des Cullinane speaking after Cork were paired with Limerick in Monday’s draw.

Des continued: “That said this is a very good and consistent Limerick side and Billy Lee has done a wonderful job. They will play like us in Division 2 next season and only lost to Louth by a point in the D3 Final, so we know exactly what we are facing.”

Reflecting on the win over Louth Des said: “It was a grind and a hard watch, but we got the job done. We knew the way Louth would play and they did just that, but we were patient and that told in the end.”

Is Des expecting something similar from Limerick?

“I think every team has a defensive plan and Limerick had one for Kerry in the Munster Final, but I don’t expect it to be as a strong as Louth, but we will study them and plan accordingly,” he answered.

As for the injuries, Des said: “No new ones thankfully. Sean Powter took a bit of a knock but he will be fine. We will also look at Miceal Aodh, but no complaints at the way Chris Kelly performed last week.”

Like Cork, Limerick were well beaten by Kerry but their challenge was over by half-time, unlike Cork who were still in the game on 55 minutes, but I am sure Billy Lee will have been pleased to draw Cork, knowing they will be competitive and feel it’s a game they are capable of winning.

The sides met last year in the Gaelic Grounds and Cork were comfortable winners, after a somewhat shaky start.

Limerick had wins over Clare in Ennis on penalties and then Tipperary in Thurles before the Kerry game in Killarney so they really have been on the road in this Championship, so playing in the ‘Páirc won’t really faze them.

Billy Lee has built a formidable team with Donal O’Sullivan, Iain Corbett, Paul Maher, Cillian Fahy, Adrian Enright, Hugh Bourke and the towering Josh Ryan key players.

Will Cork alter their starting 15? Miceal Aodh if fit might get the nod in goal, but defensively they looked comfortable and the younger players like John Cooper and Rory Maguire are growing in confidence with every outing, while Sean Powter and Kevin O’Donovan also offer something going forward, an added bonus.

Ian Maguire continues to display his excellent leadership qualities in midfield and always seem to make the right decision. Colm O’Callaghan took his goal brilliantly.

Once again though the attack was over reliant on Brian Hurley and Steven Sherlock. Between them they accounted for 2-11 of Cork’s total of 2-12, that needs to improve as that will not be good enough against the bigger sides left in the Championship.

Brian Hayes made a very important contribution when introduced and now will they once again hold him in reserve or give the ‘Barr’s man the nod to start.

Winning gives the team confidence and coming into this game on the back of last Saturday will give them momentum, by contrast Limerick will be seeing action for the first time since the heavy defeat in Killarney how they react will be interesting.

Cork at home will be favourites, but this is not a bad Limerick side who have the capacity to trouble most teams, but you have to feel that Cork are showing signs of improvement in most areas. S better return from the attack will of course be needed, but they get the nod to win and then enter the last 8 of the Championship, which would welcome given that a short few weeks ago, Division 3 and the Tailteann Cup were very much staring this team in the face.

Cork had good support last week let’s hope for a similar backing on Sunday it could make all the difference if it’s tight coming down the stretch.

Cork v Limerick game is on Sunday 1.30pm and is live on C103.

Minor football and camogie

The manner in which Cork demolished Kerry in the Munster Final last week surprised many, myself included. It was a turnaround very few expected. Even Kerry couldn’t cope with a re-energised Rebel side and Michael O’Brien and his backroom team deserve immense credit.

The signs were there in the semi-final win over Tipperary and maintained in the final now they must do it all again against Derry in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Saturday at 6pm in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final.

Derry lost a cracking Ulster Final to Tyrone and last year as champions Cork were well beaten at the same stage by the Ulster runners-up, they will be keen to avoid a repeat.

There is now a nice balance to the Cork side. Josh Woods is calm and composed with good hands in goal while Colin Molly and Darragh O’Donovan are excellent defenders.

Team captain Colm Gillespie had his best game last week with a couple of great points, while Brian Hayes, Ed Myers, Alan O’Connell and Olan O’Donovan all made vital contributions in recent games.

Ulster would appear to be a bit more competitive then Munster at this level and that might make Derry favourites, but Cork are improving with every game and if they can maintain that upward curve another win could be on the cards.

With 2 wins from 2 in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship, Cork are on the cusp of making the play-off stages and will look to make it 3 on the bounce when they play Meath in Castle Road on Saturday at 5oc.

Lauren Callanan, Niamh O’Leary, Rachel Harty, Joanne Casey, Michelle Murphy and Hayley Ryan are part of a nicely balanced side and having beaten Meath in the League in Navan they look set to repeat that especially with home advantage.

Seamus Looney RIP

The passing of Seamus on Monday has evoked great sadness for so many who enjoyed watching his stellar career with his beloved St Finbarr’s, UCC briefly and of course in red of Cork.

As a doctor, he was a friend and confidante to so many and the tributes that have been paid to Seamus are testimony to the esteem in which he was held.

During his playing career he won multiple honours. This included an All-Ireland senior hurling medal in 1970, while he won 3 Under 21 All-Ireland hurling medals, 2 in football along with 2 All-Ireland Minor Football.

At club level he won County Senior Hurling medals with the ‘Barrs and an All-Ireland Club medal, and a senior football winner in 1976.

The honours kept coming with UCC, added 3 more county medals - 2 in football and 1 hurling - along with coveted Fiztgibbon and Sigerson Cup medals, a talented dual player at both club and county level.

Up to his retirement he was an active and an ever helpful doctor to countless ‘Barr’s team and whatever venue you met him he had a word and a smile, because quite simply Seamus was a real gent.

Sincere sympathy to his family and friends and the many playing colleagues he soldiered with in an honour laden career.

May his gentle soul rest in peace.