Alan Walsh of MTU Cork in action against Jamie Grant of DCU Dóchas Éireann during the HE GAA Sigerson Cup Quarter Final match at DCU. DCU won 2-12 to 0-9. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Big weekend of league action

Three Cork teams are in league action this weekend and in each case victories will be crucial.

First up are the hurlers who welcome All-Ireland champions Limerick to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night. On Sunday the footballers head to Newbridge for what is already a must-win game, then on bank holiday Monday, it’s Cork and Dublin in the Lidl Ladies Football National League.

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Cork v Limerick on

Saturday Páirc Uí

Chaoimh at 7.30pm

“Delighted to win this competition (Munster League) but there are bigger games ahead and we know that, but this has given us confidence and just as important, players got vital game time.” Cork captain Sean O’Donoghue speaking after the win over Tipperary in the final.

Sean was also pleased at the way that game was won: “We were behind for long periods but just kept at it and eventually it came good, while the crowd were brilliant; they never stopped encouraging us, and that was a huge help in the final ten minutes.”

As for Limerick, “that will be a huge game and we are really looking forward to, they are the benchmark but it’s great that it’s in the Páirc and should make for a cracking atmosphere.”

Equally Coach Pat Ryan was relishing the challenge the champions will present. “What better way to start the league than with the All-Ireland champions under lights and it’s a game we are looking forward to.”

They met in Munster League a few weeks ago but this will be different. “Without a doubt. To be fair they were just back from holidays and had very little done, but it was still a serious game which is the indication of the depth in their squad.”

What will Cork’s approach to the league be? “Well we will try and win every game, but conscious of the need to get game time into the players, and also a balancing act as we have a lot of our players involved in Fitzgibbon Cup and that will need to be factored is as well.”

Like his captain, Pat was delighted with the Munster League. “It was great really, we got 3 games, two of them very tough and tight which was another bonus, winning it was nice as well as it showed that we can tough games out, but look the real business gets underway on Saturday night.”

What pleased him most about the win over Tipperary was “the manner in which we dug it out, didn’t play particularly well, but showed great resolve to get the result”.

Injuries have meant a few players out of the equation but Pat was hopeful they will ease in the run up to the game.

Limerick will obviously have their focus on completing a historic four in a row of All-Ireland titles and last year had a somewhat relaxed approach to the league - doing enough to avoid relegation and will probably adopt a similar approach this season.

They do have a settled team so John Kiely will use it to give his large squad, although reduced during the week according to reports, games as he prepares for the championship, but they will be competitive.

It is understood some of their players extended their holidays after the team holiday and so might not feature on Saturday.

The make-up of Cork’s starting 15 will be interesting. Robert Downey is doubtful with a hamstring injury and that might alter the shape of the defence, which should include Damien Cahalane, Ciaran Joyce, Patrick Collins and Sean O’Donoghue.

Tommy O’Connell and Brian Roche will be in contention for the midfield pairing, while Robbie O’Flynn, Patrick Horgan - who certainly did not mince his words about being left off in vital games last year when interviewed at the league launch last week - Conor Lehane and Jack O’Connor should feature in attack.

It has the makings of an intriguing encounter and is certain to attract a very large crowd if their recent meeting is any guide. Cork might be in a bit better shape and that should see them get off to a winning start.

The game is live on C103.

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Cork v Kildare in

Newbridge on Sunday at 2pm

Having lost to Meath last Sunday, this game has taken on added significance for both teams as Dublin beat Kildare, a 2nd loss would increase the pressure after just two rounds.

That your league position at the end of the competition could decide whether you play for the Sam Maguire or the Tailteann Cup will not be lost on the respective managers ahead of this game.

For Cork they would have been expected to beat Meath, and early indications were positive, but conceding 3 goals proved their undoing.

Manager John Cleary was naturally very disappointed afterwards: “Very much so, should have been further ahead at half-time, but when you concede 3 goals it is hard to win at any level, but we will look at it, assess and hopefully improve for the Kildare match.”

Like Pat Ryan, 3rd level will impact on them this coming week. “It will, both UCC and MTU are in Dublin midweek, which will reduce numbers, while Conor Corbett is also playing with DCU so look that’s just the way it is this time of the year and we just have to deal with it.”

Apart from defensive lapses for the goals, the return from the attack will also need addressing.

Of the 0-19 total, Steven Sherlock bagged 0-14, defenders Mattie Taylor and Maurice Shanley had 0-1 each, while attackers Sean Powter and debutant Chris Og Jones were also point scorers.

It all meant 3 of the starting 6 failed to register a score which was disappointing given the amount of possession they had, especially in the first half.

Kildare came up just short by 1 point to Dublin in Croke and they will take huge encouragement from that display and in the tight confines of St Conleth’s Park are difficult to beat.

That said, they to lack consistency and having beaten Dublin last year, they were relegated, so putting good back to back performances has been a problem.

Niall Flynn, Jack Robinson and Jimmy Hyland had 0-10 of their total of 0-11 so like Cork they might have an issue in that area.

Equally though they confined the ‘Dubs to just 1-11 with Shea Ryan, David Hyland and Paddy McDermott impressive.

Will Cork change their formation or their approach? It was a bit lateral at times and they turned over possession in key areas, one such turnover led to the crucial 2nd Meath goal.

Forwards thrive on good quick ball, Brian Hurley even though he didn’t score is one such player, Sherlock another, will Conor Corbett, Killian O’Hanlon or Ruairi Deane now come into consideration? If they shake up the attack, they might.

How will the rest of the team line up? Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan look set to continue in midfield, will Sean Powter now be deployed in a defensive role and will the 6 that started in defence get another opportunity to show they are better than they looked last Sunday, and they are to be fair.

Can Cork win? Of course they can, but it’s a big ask, a big game, and unless there is an improvement, you could be looking at facing Dublin in 3 weeks time pointless and in a relegation battle.

As with the hurling game, the match is live on C103.

Lidl Ladies Football

D1 League

Cork v Dublin on

Monday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 3pm

There were contrasting results for these keenest of rivals last week. Cork snatch a late draw against a clearly improving Waterford side in Pilltown, while Dublin were well beaten by Galway who have now got two wins from two outings.

Apart from being critical of the pitch in Pilltown, which as everyone knows is in county Kilkenny, Cork boss Shane Roynane was delighted with the effort. “The battling qualities we saw against Mayo last week surfaced again today to grab a vital draw; you need that spirit in every team and we obviously have it with this group.”

“We were 7 down at one stage, kept plugging away and got our just reward, remember this is a good Waterford side who came close to beating Kerry last week, so we now move on to Dublin next week.”

Katie Quirke got the levelling score last week and along with Erika O’Shea, Shauna Kelly, Rachel Leahy and dual players Libby Coppinger and Hannah Looney played well and will need to be as good again when Dublin arrive in town on Monday.

Galway’s margin of victory 1-13 to 0-7 will concern Dublin boss Mick Bohan ahead of their trip to Leeside and expect a response but will it be good enough to beat a youthful Cork side?

That’s big question and it should make for a lively encounter.