Seamus Harnedy of Cork in action against Shane Reck of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match at Páirc Ui Chaoimh which Cork won 2-14 to 0-18. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Hectic weekend of action coming up

While much of the week will be dominated by the big rugby game on Saturday and events in Cheltenham, it is certainly a hectic one with 5 Cork inter-county teams in action and 2 Cork schools in All-Ireland hurling finals.

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Cork v Clare in Ennis on Sunday at 1.45pm

“Not very happy with the overall performance but delighted with the ways the lads kept at it and eventually got the win.” That was Pat Ryan speaking after the win over Wexford that saw his side into the semi-final with a game to spare.

“We had a lot of young players out there today and that is another pleasing aspect, while the impact off the bench was important.”

Getting to the semi-final was also vital. “Well we are in every competition to win it, but given that we do not play championship until the end of April (Cork have a bye in the 1st round), the extra match or two will help in getting game time into the players coming back from injury.”

The one positive to take from the match, apart from the win, was the desire to keep going until the end and that is a trait that has been evident all season, games last 70+ minutes and they have won a few late on.

Twice in the Munster League against Limerick and Tipperary and again in the opening league game against Limerick, all 3 matches won with late scores.

Sunday gives the management another opportunity to try a few alternatives and options with the championship in mind, while at the same time they will want to keep the winning momentum.

The introduction of Rob Downey, Seamus Harnedy and Jack O’Sullivan helped swing the match their way, while Alan Cadogan was not on long enough to impact on proceedings, all four might feature from the start on Sunday.

How will Clare approach the game? Obviously they will be disappointed at how last week panned out as it scuppered their chances of a semi-final spot, but with Cork heading back to Ennis for the championship they will be keen to lay down a marker.

Whatever the result, Cork will be out again the following Saturday against either Kilkenny or Waterford in the semi-final and that will probably shape the starting 15, which should be interesting for a match that is live on C103.

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Cork v Louth in Ardee on Sunday at 1pm

In the immediate aftermath of what in the was a comfortable win over Clare in Ennis, manager John Cleary conceded that promotion was now out of the equation but that was not going to alter their approach.

“We go from game to game, as we have done all year. Look at today’s game, take the learnings from it and see where we can improve for the next day.”

John was also delighted with the 2nd half response after a disappointing opening. “Not a lot was said in the dressing room at half-time, the players themselves knew they had not played well and they took ownership and once we got on top, we always looked comfortable.”

As for missing the few goal chances, “someday we will get them all but look we are creating the opportunities and that is pleasing.”

It’s Louth now on Sunday and John knows that is going to be no easy game.

“Without a doubt you saw how hard it was in the qualifiers in the ‘Park last year, they have improved since that day and are on a bit of a roll, so yeah it will be tough especially up there.”

As for the championship, it’s back to Ennis in early April. Will the league result have any bearing? “I don’t think so, it will be a different game, but we have a few weeks before that, now it’s back to the training ground and continue to work on areas that need improving.”

Interestingly in the 5 games to date, Cork have conceded 4 goals, 3 against Meath and the 1 by Clare was from a penalty, so defensively they have tightened up, while they have scored 13, and that could be more, a missed penalty and even a couple disallowed, so the graph is going in the right direction.

Steven Sherlock is still out for Sunday and Mattie Taylor, who has actually got 2 goals is a doubt, and apart from Cathal O’Mahoney - a long term injury - Cork will have a strong hand to pick from.

Louth defeated Kildare in the last round and they still have an outside chance of promotion, but they must play Dublin in their last game so they will test Cork.

A blow for Mickey Harte though is the injury to Sam Mulroy as he is a key player and scorer for them.

Daniel O’Mahoney, Luke Fahy, Ian Maguire, Brian Hurley, Eoghan McSweeney and Sean Powter are all in excellent from now and with a bit more depth to chose from, Cork should win and the capacity to get goals should see them take the 2 points on offer, ahead of the visit from Derry on Sunday week.

Having won their 3 games to date, Cork are within touching distance of a place in the Division 1 league final when they play Kilkenny at the unusual time at 11.30am on Sunday morning in Nowlan Park. A win or a draw will be good enough.

Cork got a real test against Tipperary last time out and that will stand to them having easily accounted for Dublin and Clare.

It was a good all round team performance with Meabh Murphy, Laura Tracey, Meabh Cahalane, Laura Hayes playing well in defence while in attack, Amy O’Connor and Orlaith Cahalane impressed while Emma Murphy made an important contribution when introduced.

Kilkenny got their first win in the last round but are concerned about the fitness of Miriam Walsh and her absence seriously weakens the side, but they will at home be hard to beat.

Cork though, are in a good position and should prevail.

In Division 2, Cork will have home advantage in Castle Road on Saturday at 2pm for the visit of Galway and on the basis of the opening round results, Cork look set to make it 2 from 2.

The minors got the defence of their All-Ireland title off to a wining start in Dublin last week and should be too strong for Waterford when the side meet in SETU Grounds on Sunday at 3pm.

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Cork v Kerry at Páirc Uí Rinn on Friday at 4pm

These are two sides with different objectives for this game.

Kerry are unbeaten and already assured of a place in the league final. They will want to keep winning and at the same time lay down a marker for when these two teams meet again in the Munster Final a few weeks down the road.

Cork by hammering Donegal in the last round ensured they would not be dragged into the relegation dogfight; now they will want to see how far down the road they are in terms of a reshaped team.

Add in the fact that it’s Cork v Kerry, an intense rivalry whatever the grade or code and it should make for a lively encounter,

There are quality players on both sides: Libby Coppinger, Erika O’Shea, Eimear Kiely and Rachel Leahy for Cork, while Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, Eilis Lynch, Siofra O’Shea, Cait Lynch and Mary Ellen Bolger for a strong Kerry side who with a bit more experience might just shade this one.

Masita All-Ireland Colleges Hurling Finals

It’s a big day for 2 Cork schools as they chase All-Irelands, both on Saturday at 2pm.

Kilmallock is the venue for the B decider with Hamilton High School Bandon v Colaiste Naomh Cormac from Offaly who are backboned by 6 players that came agonisingly close to winning last year’s All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship so that will test the West Cork side.

Hammies as they are popularly known, have grown in confidence with every outing and have excellent players in Micheal Maguire, who got the vital goal in their semi-final win, Harry O’Sullivan, Sean Aherne, Eoin Guinane, Evan O’Shea, Conor O’Sullivan, Niall Kelly and Kevin Dart-O’Flynn a goal scorer in the Munster Final win, Olan Corcoran, while goalkeeper Aaron White is available having won his appeal against the red card received in the semi-final, a timely boost and maybe an omen.

Mitchelstown CBS with Anthony Nash as their coach head to Kinnegad, county Westmeath for a C decider against St Mary’s Magherafelt and will fancy their chances of success.

This is a side with a lot of players that have inter-county experience including Tipperary minor of last year Cathal English, Eoghan Geary, brothers Diarmuid - a member of the Cork minor football panel and Darragh O’Brien on the under 20 panel, joint captains Luke Keating and Shane Looney and Cathal Walsh - another member of the under 20 panel.

Hurling is on a roll down that area with Ballygiblin’s recent All-Ireland win, could another title be heading to the Avondhu division? A Cork double would be nice, best of luck to both teams.