Huge ask for footballers
With the hurlers losing last Saturday, the one remaining chance for a male senior All-Ireland title for the Rebel County rests with the footballers and we all know the task they face.
There’s a big weekend also for the ladies footballers and the Intermediate camogie side as they bid to secure their places in the knockout phase of their respective championships too.
All-Ireland Senior Football Quarter Final
Cork v Dublin
Having enjoyed the comforts of home advantage for their last 3 games, it’s a trip to the big house this time round and a first Championship meeting with Dublin since the Super 8’s clash back in 2019.
From that game Cork have just 3 survivors Ian Maguire, Mattie Taylor and Captain Brian Hurley, so a huge occasion for those making their 1st starts in Croke Park.
Dublin too have lost some key men, but will still have a very experienced side that eased to a Leinster title - their 12th in a row, without breaking a sweat.
Much has been said and written about the Munster Championship, yet 2 of the 4 in 1 side of the draw come from the Southern Province, Kerry as champions are there as well, while no Leinster county survived the qualifiers.
Reacting to the draw Cork selector Des Cullinane, said: “It’s a tough draw, there are no easy ones at this stage of the Championship, and yes Dublin will be warm favourites but look, we will prepare as we have done for every other game and go there with the intention of giving it our best shot.”
Playing in Croke Park will be beneficial to the team. “Of course it will it’s where all top teams and players aspire to play and we are no different, so we are really looking forward to it,” he said.
The size of the task confronting Cork can be gauged by the margin of victories. Dublin racked up in their wins over Wexford, Kildare and Meath so a testing 70 minutes ahead for the Cork defence.
Not just the defence, from 15 back all will have to work extremely hard to try and deny Dublin the space in which they have the capacity to carve open any formation they face and they have done that with ease.
They have put the league relegation to Division 2 behind them. Kildare will join them there next year, as will Cork of course, a clear indication that there focus all year has been on the championship.
In the final they scored 5 first-half goals. Ciaran Kilkenny, John Small, Con O’Callaghan and a brace from Cormac Costello putting the game beyond Kildare, in fact it was done and dusted long before the break as Glen Ryan’s side were put to the sword.
It was a very efficient display by Dessie Farrell’s men with Dean Rock, Eoghan Murchan, Lee Gannon, Brian Fenton, Sean Bulger, Brian Howard and James Mc Carthy all showing the quality and class we know they possess.
Cork are unlikely to show much change from the Limerick game but they know well this is a step up in class.
Micheál Aodh Martin will be fronted by Kevin O’Donovan, who is in outstanding form in recent games, as is Sean Powter and how good it is to see this classy player enjoying an injury free run?
Maurice Shanley and Rory Maguire are growing in confidence with every outing.
Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan will man the midfield and this will be the acid test for this hard working pair.
Steven Sherlock has been the go to man in attack all season, getting good support from Brian Hurley, Cathal O’Mahoney whose not afraid to shoot, while Eoghan Mc Sweeney clipped over 3 lovely points in the win over Limerick.
How will Cork set up? Will they deploy a sweeper in an effort to curb the threat that Dublin will bring? Powter might be given that role, he did it so well against Kerry, if they decide against that option will they go head to head in what could be a shootout? That could be fatal, so the odds are they will adopt that position and see where it takes them.
There is no doubt this will be Cork’s biggest game in a number of years. Brian Hurley offered the view that: “We are not going to just make up the numbers and know we are not in bonus territory, we are where we feel we should be and wanted to be.”
Manager John Cleary said: “We will know what stage of progression we are at after this game.”
Like the Munster semi-final against Kerry, Cork are rank outsiders, and not many, if anyone can see them winning, and on known form it’s hard to argue against that.
Dublin probably will win, but a wise man once said: “The day you have no chance is the day you have every chance.”
No question Cork will give it their best shot, but even that does not look like been good enough to deny Dublin a place in the last 4.
The game takes places in Croke Park on Saturday at 6pm and as ever will be live on C103.
For the 2nd game in the group, Cork are on the road. This time to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Saturday for a 5pm start against Waterford.
Ironically, like the Donegal game last week, Cork should be playing at home, but TV dictates so they forfeit that advantage.
To be fair, Cork Manager Shane Roynane had no issue with it: “Not at all. We got the win here today (against Donegal) so now the focus switches to Waterford, who gave us a tough game in the league so we know what we are up against.”
Shane had mixed views on the win: “Happy enough with the first-half. We worked hard, took our scores and were in a good position, the second-half we lost our way a bit, but still done enough to get the job done.”
It all means a win or a draw with Waterford will see them progress to the quarter final, but the Déisi girls have something to play for as well, a win will see all 3 teams level on 2 points and scoring difference will come into play.
Cork look good for the most part last week. Meabh O’Sullivan was excellent in goal, Laura O’Mahoney and Melissa Duggan very efficient in defence, as was team captain Maire O’Callaghan.
Doireann O’Sullivan was the ace in attack with 1-5, Ciara O’Sullivan’s play making was top class, while Libby Coppinger and Orla Finn are as dangerous as ever.
Cork would appear to be moving in the right direction as we get to the business end of the season and they look well equipped to win and seal their place in the last eight.
With 3 wins from 3, the Cork Intermediate team make the long trip to Owenbeg on Sunday to play Derry at 1pm where they will endeavour to emulate the seniors and progress to the knock out phase of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Championship.
Derry are 2nd in the table, with 6 points, Cork are on 9, so the home team have a lot to play for as they to bid to progress in this very competitive championship.
The sides actually met in the league, earlier in the year and on a dreadful afternoon. Cork won a tight contest on the way to the semi-final where they eventually lost to another Ulster side, Antrim.
Cork’s form has been very consistent since their league campaign ended and despite key players picking up knocks, they remain unbeaten.
Leanne O’Sullivan, Niamh O’Leary, Lauren Callanan, Joanne Casey, Hayley Ryan, Michelle Murphy, Rachel O’Shea and Stephanie Beausang have been key players throughout the campaign and will need to be at their best in this game if they are to maintain their current excellent run.
Playing at home will give Derry the edge, especially after such a long journey and that could very well tell against Cork.
Disappointment in Thurles.
The curtain came down on Cork’s hurling season last Saturday with a very poor, particularly first-half performance against a Galway side, who took the opportunities that came their way.
By contrast Cork hit 12 first half wide’s, 17 in total, spurned 3 clear goal chances, coughed up 2 soft goals and missed at least 5 frees that at this level must be converted.
Much has been said and written since Saturday, all along the same vein, Cork left this one after them to a Galway team that are not a patch on previous sides from that county who have beaten us in the championship. This by the way was their 5th win in a row.
The decision not to start the championship’s all time top scorer Patrick Horgan clearly backfired as have no doubt the Glen Rovers man would have not missed those frees.
In a tight game, a few strange calls by the referee did not help, small margins make the difference.
What now for the group on and off the field, Kieran Kingston reshaped his management team at the start of the year, did it work? Given that we were in the All-Ireland Final last year, the juries out on that one.
The manager and the backroom team term of office ended at the conclusion of the game so both Kieran and the County Board officers will have a lot to ponder on in the coming weeks.
How many of the more experienced players will return or be asked to return when the new campaign gets underway, the nucleus of the squad is still very young, you still need the experienced hands to guide the younger players through tight games.
Finally, there has been calls by some that we should go outside the county for the next manager, if there is to be a change, personally it is not something I would favour there is plenty of experienced and talented coaches here in Cork to guide our fortunes.
The focus will soon switch to the County Hurling Championship. Let’s see what that will offer up in terms of players for the squad going forward.
For now, though, you cannot help but feel that Saturday’s loss will hurt those involved for some time to come.