Ben Cunningham of Cork in action against Jack Galvin of Westmeath during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Another must-win game for the men’s footballers

Hall of Fame recipient, Cork camogie player Linda Mellerick at the Gaelic Writers’ Association Awards, supported by EirGrid, which took place at the Iveagh Garden Hotel in Dublin last weeked. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Given the intense activity of recent weeks, it’s a bit quieter this weekend with just a handful of intercounty games down for decision but all very important nonetheless.

There is also the opening rounds of the county hurling league a week on from the commencement of the football leagues. It’s interesting that with the hurlers not playing, manager Pat Ryan has released players to play with their clubs, a move for which he is to be commended for.

Obviously a number of players with injuries are unavailable but for any player on the comeback trail, it’s an ideal opportunity to get some game time.

Allianz NFL Division 2

Cork v Clare at Cusack Park Ennis on Sunday at 2pm

It was well documented that Division 2 of the football league was always going to be ultra competitive and that is how it has turned out, with only Dublin and Derry unbeaten and they meet on Saturday and barring a draw that will change.

Cork are currently in third place and still in with a shout of promotion; the big score racked up last Sunday could be a factor as we enter the last 3 rounds.

Every game from now on in is a must-win one, as it has been since the start and Clare showed their capabilities by running Dublin to a point in Croke Park last weekend, and on only 2 points badly need a win.

It is also of course a dress rehearsal for their championship quarter-final meeting also in Ennis in early April.

Sean Powter, one of the goal scorers last Sunday knows it will be a tough game. “Very much so, we have beaten them and they have beaten us so there is very little between the teams and Ennis is a hard place to go, but we knew that at the start of the season so we are ready for it, and that is the reason why we play football and play with Cork - to be involved in important games.”

Sean is pleased the way the squad is developing: “We were disappointed at the loss to Dublin, we felt we didn’t take the chances that came our way, but as we do every week we review and work on them in training and that paid off today.”

Cork got 6 goals last Sunday, it could so easily have been 9. Sean himself admitted he should have scored a 2nd, Eoghan McSweeney who played well could have had another, while Ruairi Deane had one, wrongly in my opinion, disallowed - the referee might have taken pity on Limerick at that stage.

Manager John Cleary was delighted with the win and the response to the Dublin loss. “It was a good win, we targeted goals and it paid off, the downside was the couple of injuries; Brian O’Driscoll looks doubtful with a hamstring, and Brian Hurley has a slight shoulder injury, he was taken off as a precaution, but look that is why we have a big squad.”

Like Sean (Powter), John knows Sunday’s trip to Ennis, and then Louth in two weeks time will test them. “Without a doubt, we knew that at the outset this was going to a very competitive division

and that is how it has turned out, we saw how good Clare were against Dublin and even though they lost, that will make them even more determined when go there on Sunday.”

Goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin is also delighted the way things are going and for the third game in a row, he kept a clean sheet. “Very important win and to be fair, the lads in front of me have been excellent. We were annoyed at conceding 3 goals to Meath and we have worked hard since that game to rectify the errors and so far so good.”

As for Ennis, it’s a “huge game but we have belief in the squad and we will go there looking to win and keep the momentum going”.

Clare actually led Dublin by 6 points with 20 minutes to play, yet the failed to score again and were undone by a 74th minute Cormac Costello point, at the very least they probably deserved a draw, and that is the 2nd week in a row that they have lost in the last minute and that might be a concern for manager Colm Collins.

After the game, Collins said he was disappointed that they did not see the game out but hoped they could learn from it.

They had some exceptional players and maybe a lack of self belief, that they could actually beat Dublin in Croke Park was a factor and how they respond could shape Sunday’s encounter.

Gavin Cooney took his goal well, Podge Collins worked hard, Eoin Cleary, Emmet McMahon, Cian O’Dea, Cillian Brennan and Ciaran Russell also impressed.

For the 3rd game in a row Cork started with the same 15, but O’Driscoll unlikely to be fit that will change, will they go with the experienced Ruairi Deane or Conor Corbett who showed his quality with 2-1 after coming in at half-time. Defensively it is unlikely there will be a change while the midfield pairing of Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan are working well, both got goals last Sunday.

Eoghan McSweeney and Chris Og Jones were in scoring form as was Steven Sherlock, while Brian Hurley if fit will trouble any defence with good quick quality ball, as he has shown in the last two games.

While accepting Ennis is not an easy place to go, Cork have a decent record there and I think I am correct in saying we have won on our last two visits there. Can they make it 3? Yes if they play with the confidence they have shown in the last few games.

Clare will be much tighter at the back than Limerick, as will the pitch and that might be a factor, but Newbridge was tight and Cork coped.

Bit more pressure on Clare given their position at the tail end of the table, but one win could change all that, a Cork win would keep them in contention and also almost guarantee their place in the Sam Maguire Cup. I’m going for a narrow Cork victory, in a game that is live on C103.

Very Ireland National Senior Camogie League

Cork v Tipperary at The Ragg on Saturday at 3.30pm

With two wins from two each, something has to give when these sides meet on Saturday and the winners will greatly enhance their chance of making the final with 2 rounds to go.

Tipperary - who beat Galway in their first round followed that up with an easy win over Dublin - will be in confident mood especially in the tight confines of their home venue.

The sides met in the All-Ireland last year, a narrow win for Cork, with controversy after the game when Ashling Thompson picked up a red card, later overturned on appeal.

Since then Tipperary have a new manager and are without influential Orla Dwyer who is back in Australia but they are going well without this very talented player.

The win over Galway was the perfect start for them and with good players dotted around the field they will test Cork.

Aine Slattery, Lorna Ryan, Karen Kennedy, Grace O’Brien, Roisin Howard, Claire Hogan and the highly effective scorer from play and placed balls Cait Devane are among their key players.

Cork’s win over Clare was efficient without being overly impressive in a game they never looked like losing, but they will be disappointed with some aspects of their play.

Manager Matthew Twomey admitted as much afterwards, saying they “played well in patches but not enough consistency in our play, but we are trying to get game time into the squad and we did that again today, so that was a help”.

Tipperary will be a test: “That is better than winning a game easy where you will learn very little and we will know a bit more after Saturday.”

The fact that both sides won their opening games makes it more interesting. “We only won by a point (1-17 to 1-16) in the championship last year in Páirc Uí Rinn; granted we were already qualified but it was a tough and Saturday will be no different.”

Cork have a few injuries but still look strong with Meabh Murphy, Laura Hayes and Laura Treacy anchoring a solid defence, while Chloe Sigerson, Amy O’Connor, Fiona Keating and Saoirse McCarthy give them good options in attack.

The winners of this game will be in a good position to make the final, and with Kilkenny and Galway next up for Cork, they might go some way to securing that spot by winning.

Interestingly after the game both Matthew and Laura Treacy were scathing in their criticism of the timing of the All-Stars tour, a week before the 1st round of the All-Ireland Championship, the draws for which have yet to be made, and since the announcement there has been no contact from the Camogie Association.

The 7 Cork players scheduled to travel have subsequently withdrawn from the tour to concentrate on their championship preparations and for that they are to be commended.

Finally on camogie, congratulations to former Cork and Glen Rovers star Linda Mellerick who on Friday last was honoured by the Gaelic Writers Association with her well deserved induction into their Hall Of Fame, joining a long list of outstanding players from various codes, they are now in good company.