GAA season ramps up
It’s the second last weekend in January and there’s a host of activity with some interesting games down for decision.
Both Cork men’s teams play in finals and the attendance of 5,138 at last Sunday’s game in Páirc Uí Rinn certainly was a welcome boost to the Munster Council and it is also notable that crowds at these early season competitions are healthy to say the least.
The fact that there has been no inter-county games since July, and longer for some teams, could be a factor.
Over 6,000 attended a McKenna Cup game in Ulster and 12,000 plus will be in Wexford Park for the Walsh Cup game between the home county and Kilkenny on Saturday night. Of course the official switching-on of the newly installed floodlights are an added attraction.
Throw in college games and the opening round of the Lidl Ladies Football National League -it's enough to keep everyone busy!
McGrath Cup Final
Cork v Limerick on Friday in Mallow at 7.30pm
In the overall scheme of things, the winners of this competition will long be forgotten when the bigger prizes are on offer.
For now though the respective team managements will be happy with another competitive outing a week out from the opening game in the Allianz League.
There is also the possibility that these two sides could meet in the semi-final of the Munster Championship, if Cork can get the better of Clare in the quarter-final first.
Cork had a good win over the Banner county last Sunday with goals from the impressive Steven Sherlock and Chris Og Jones, in a game where they were in control for long periods.
It was also a much changed team from the side that beat Kerry in the opening round and the fact that getting valuable competitive game time into the majority of the panel will have been the objective of John Cleary and his selectors.
Similarly for Limerick, now under new boss former Mayo player Ray Dempsey and the manner in which they got a draw late on against Tipperary will have pleased him and they will relish another final appearance.
The sides last met in the All-Ireland qualifier in the summer of last year. Cork won but Friday’s starting 15s will be much changed.
Gordon Browne, Davy Lyons, Cian Sheehan, Ian Corbett, Adrian Enright and Donal O’Sullivan all impressed for Limerick and are likely to feature again.
What 15 Cork will name or indeed start will depend on injuries and Sigerson Cup involvement and injuries which a few lads are carrying.
Ian Maguire, Ruairi Deane, Brian O’Driscoll, Mattie Taylor, Colm O’Callaghan, Brian Hurley and Eoghan McSweeney have shown good form to date and will be keen to maintain that.
In the aftermath of the win over Clare, John Cleary was pleased. “Well it was a good win, we played well, Clare are always hard to beat especially at home, but we got the job done, and now we have a final to look forward to.”
With the league opener clearly coming into focus, John is delighted with the pre-season competition. “We now get 3 competitive games which is important. Limerick will be keen to win it, so will we, for now we will assess the knocks conscious that we have Sigerson Cup this week and get ready for the final.”
Cork will be keen to enter the league - Meath in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday week - on the back of another win, and they should just do that.
Co-Op Superstores Senior Hurling League Final
Cork v Tipperary on Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 3pm
Having just got the better of the All-Ireland champions Limerick to reach the final, Cork Manager Pat Ryan was quick to put things in perspective. “It’s nice to win, to be fair it was a much changed Limerick side and they’re just back from their team holiday, but we got there and now we have another game on Sunday.”
Even without a host of regulars, Pat was impressed by one particular aspect of Limerick’s game. “Their physicality is something else, you see when they play but up this close, it’s really impressive.”
There was a frenetic finish to the match which looked like ending level as both sides missed chances before Brian Hayes proved the match winner with an injury time point.
Cork will be disappointed with the concession of a rather soft goal and they will also look for a better return for the attack where Conor Lehane contributed 0-12 out of the 0-20 scored.
As they have done in their games to date, it was very much a case of giving players an opportunity to stake a claim for inclusion on the league panel, which begins against the same opposition in a few weeks time.
Injuries also impact on the selection and a number of key players are still absent, among them Tim O’Mahoney, Robbie Flynn and Damien Cahalane and of course like the footballers, 3rd level involvement in the Fitzgibbon Cup is also a factor.
Tipperary now with Liam Cahill at the helm will be pleased to reach the final having lost first time out to the team he managed last year, Waterford but a win over Clare and results in the other games ensured they progressed to the final.
Like Cork, Cahill has mixed and matched his team and he will be conscious that they need to show much improvement on what was a poor year for the team under Colm Bonner last year and winning this competition might be a start.
Jake Morris, Barry Hogan, Michael Breen, Gearoid O’Connor, Sean Ryan and Jason Forde were among those to impress in the win over Clare and likely to feature again on Sunday.
The composition of the Cork team will be interesting, but on home soil they will be anxious to win.
Patrick Collins, Robert Downey, Declan Dalton, Shane Barrett, Ciaran Joyce, Lehane and Brian Hayes will all probably come into the equation depending on injuries and how the panel members come through a busy week in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
Home advantage might help, especially if the crowd surpasses the attendance that witnessed last Sunday’s win over Limerick. Whatever the outcome, both managers will park it and then focus on the upcoming league content that they got the maximum 3 games out of a pre-season competition.
Lidl Ladies Football NL Division 1
Cork v Mayo on Sunday in Bekan at 1.30pm
In a strange twist, Cork’s first game on the new season is against the side that ended their ’22 season in the quarter-final of the championship in Ennis.
Since then Cork have lost key players who have opted out of the panel: Martina O’Brien, Eimear Scally, Aine Terry O’Sullivan and this week 6 times All-Ireland winner Orla Finn called time on what was a glittering career.
On the plus side, the return from Australia of Erika O’Shea is a huge boost, this very talented player is available for both league and championship and will bring her vast experience of playing at the highest level to the squad and the younger players will certainly benefit the team.
That is a fair chunk of experience and quality to take out of any team and manager Shane Roynane will look to the league to introduce new players to the team, with an eye on the championship later in the year.
This is tough opener at anytime and they are away to Waterford a week later. A win here would be a huge lift, but they might not get it.
Dr Harty Cup semi-final
Midleton CBS v Thurles CBS on Saturday in Mallow at 3pm
3 Cork schools contested the quarter-finals of the prestigious Harty Cup but now it’s just the renowned East Cork side that remain in contention and they too looked to be heading out as the clock inched towards the 60th minute.
However they showed great resilience to grab the win with 2 late goals to defeat De La Salle.
Jack Leahy got the first goal, he finished with 1-9, while James O’Brien, Ben Walsh, Timmy Wilk, Tiarnan Roche and Daniel Murnane all impressed in a nail biting contest.
It was a similar story for Thurles they looked out in their clash with St Colman’s Fermoy, but they too produced a big finish courtesy of late scores from Tommy Maher and Robbie Ryan.
Two fairly evenly matched sides should make for an intriguing encounter, making it hard to call and conditions will also be a factor.
Midleton’s full-forward line could hold the key, if they are not held the East Cork school might just prevail.
It’s been a fantastic 22 months for the junior hurlers from Ballygiblin - just 1 defeat in championship in that period. That was in last year’s All-Ireland Final, well they righted that last Saturday with an impressive win on their second visit to Croke Park.
They led from start to finish and outcome was never really in doubt and there huge band of supporters enjoyed the occasion and I understand the celebrations are ongoing and rightly so.
Their gesture at the end with the nod to the late Paudie Palmer was a real touch of class, well done lads.