Cork and Kilkenny renew rivalry in league semi-final
It’s a very busy weekend with a number of Cork teams in action in various codes, while it’s a sure sign that the season is progressing with both county minor and under 20 hurling teams starting their championship campaigns.
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Cork v Kilkenny on Sunday in Nowlan Park at 4pm
Still unbeaten and grinding out results is a positive sign and Cork head into the semi-final in good shape with an injury list that appears to be easing although Seamus Harnedy and Declan Dalton are out of this game.
The injuries have helped the management team get a look at most of the players in the squad. A lot of players have staked a claim for inclusion in the championship panel.
With the exception of Mark Coleman who is unlikely to feature this season and Alan Connolly who has for now left the panel, only Darragh Fitzgibbon and Tim O’Mahoney have not played in the league but both are nearing a return so the depth of the squad has been tested and passed with flying colours.
Reflecting on the draw in Ennis, Pat Ryan was delighted: “Very pleasing in difficult conditions; we never gave up against a good Clare side and in the end got a draw which we deserved.”
As for playing Kilkenny in Nowlan Park, Pat is really looking forward to it. “It’s brilliant, a great venue, big crowd, nice atmosphere and playing a team that for the early part we are not playing in championship and are going well. It will be a great experience for our lads and should make for a lively game.”
Kilkenny under Derek Lyng recovered from a heavy loss to Tipperary, and by defeating champions Waterford in their final game ensured 2nd spot in the group.
He also confirmed that some of the Ballyhale-Shamrock lads including TJ Reid will not feature in this game.
Billy Drennan’s accuracy - he got 0-10 - was a factor in win over Waterford, while Tommy and Padraig Walsh, Paddy Deegan, Eoin Cody and David Blanchfield all made important contributions.
What will the composition of the Cork team be? Patrick Collins should return in goal, while Damien Cahalane, Robert Downey and maybe even his brother Eoin and Niall O’Leary could feature in defence.
Ethan Twomey played well in Ennis, as did Padraig Power grabbing another goal, Conor Lehane, Shane Kingston, Conor Cahalane, Jack O’Connor and Brian Hayes will all be in the mix for selection as will lads returning from injury.
Whatever 15 is chosen face a tough test as they bid to repeat the win at the same stage of last year’s league played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and make it 3 from 3 against the Cats.
That said our record against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park is not good; there was a meaningless relegation play-off win in 2019, but before that it was as far back as 1987 in the league.
It is a record they would like to alter and while Kilkenny are always hard to beat, I just fancy Cork might shade this one, and as ever, it is live on C103.
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Cork v Derry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday at 2pm
It’s the final game of a league that has mixed the good with the bad on the back of a loss to Louth last Sunday. While their place in the Sam Maguire Cup is all but secured, a win in this game would put it beyond doubt.
John Cleary was disappointed with the defeat in Ardee: “We started well but not for the first time we didn’t take the goal chances that we created and today we were punished.”
A couple of other factors shaped the result, the awarding of a soft penalty to Louth when Cork were leading 0-7 to 0-2, and the dismissal of Daniel O’Mahoney just before half-time.
The tight confines of the venue also suited the defensive set up favoured by Mickey Harte and while it worked, they will certainly face a different challenge on Sunday when they play Dublin in Croke Park. The winners will be promoted, and on the evidence of recent outings, it won’t be Louth, but they will look back on the campaign positively.
How will Derry approach this game? Will they want to make it 7 from 7 or with promotion and a place in the final against, in all probability Dublin a week later, adopt a cautious attitude and give key men a rest?
It will be Cork’s last game before playing Clare who were relegated to Division 3 in the championship in Ennis on 9 April.
There will be changes to the team as John confirmed that both Mattie Taylor and Brian Hurley will not be risked, and O’Mahoney’s red card rules him out.
Cian Kiely or Kevin O’Donovan might come into the defence, otherwise the management might opt for little change.
Hard one to call, but this will test Cork. They might know exactly where they stand after this game, but playing at home and the desire to win, and build some momentum for Ennis might just give them the edge.
The match is live on C103.
By virtue of their impressive win over Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on Sunday, Cork can relax in the knowledge that irrespective of the outcome of Sunday’s meeting with Galway in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 12pm, they can look forward to the Very Ireland Division 1 league final in Croke Park on 16 April.
Of course depending on results in the other games, this could be the pairing for that decider.
A Galway win in Leeside and a Kilkenny victory over Tipperary would see that materialise but that will be of little concern to Cork they will be determined to maintain their winning sequence.
23 points last Sunday, 20 from play, 10 different scorers were the most pleasing aspect of the win and with a number of players to come back in, the depth of the squad is certainly increasing and that will be crucial as the season evolves.
Galway are the league champions - they beat Cork in the final - and it should make for an interesting contest but Cork look well equipped to finish the group phase unbeaten.
In Division 2, Cork got the better of Galway last week and with 2 wins from 2 another on Saturday, away to Kilkenny in Pilltown at 1pm, who have also won their 2 games, would see them on course for a place in the final with Wexford to play in their last game.
At Castle Road on Sunday at 2pm, it’s a vital game in the minor championship with Cork facing Tipperary on the back of a defeat to Waterford. A win is vital if they are to harbour hopes of retaining the All-Ireland title won in style last year.
Finally the news on Tuesday that the proposed All-Star tour to Canada has been cancelled is being welcomed by all counties, and while it seems more counties were going to withdraw from the tour, the decision by the Cork players early in the controversy set the trend and they are to be commended for it.
The final group game in the Lidl Division 1 of the League see Cork welcome All-Ireland champions Meath to Páirc U Rinn on Saturday at 12.45pm.
Neither side can make the final, so this will be another opportunity to get game time into their players ahead of the championship.
Cork had a good win over Kerry, a team that only included a few regulars, but they did play well and were deserving winners.
Ciara O’Sullivan showed how much she still has to offer this young team, while Katie Quirke and Melissa Duggan also impressed, and with the talented Erika O’Shea still to come back into the team, Cork would appear to be moving in the right direction ahead of a bust few weeks.
Meath have had a poor campaign collecting just 5 points not helped by the absence of key players and also with a new management.
Vikki Wall is back in the squad and like Cork will want to sign off with a win but maybe that might go the home side.
Munster Minor Hurling Championship
Cork v Waterford on Tuesday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 7pm
Just like the senior and under 20 championships, this grade is also a round-robin format with the top 3 advancing, group winners go to final, with 2nd and 3rd playing a semi-final, so a good start will be important.
Waterford lost to Limerick in the 1st round and cannot afford a 2nd defeat but having a championship game under their belts will be a help.
Cork with Kieran ‘Fraggy’ Murphy guiding their fortunes have prepared well and with the majority of the panel having enjoyed success in the various underage grades, they are strongly fancied to make a winning start.
Munster Under 20 Hurling championship
Cork v Waterford on Wednesday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 7pm
Ben O’Connor embarks on his first inter-county managerial stint having enjoyed success with both Charleville and Midleton and he is really enjoying it. “Lads are good to work with and the backroom is excellent, all guys with plenty of experience.”
Ben is also happy with the format: “Exciting with 4 games unlike knockout, it gives you a chance to develop a team and the players will be better for it, and look if you don’t qualify after 4 games then you can’t complain.”
The availability of lads on the senior panel will also help.
“Yes and it is only right that they are allowed play in their own grade; they might only get one shot at this, and in fairness Pat (Ryan) has been very helpful all year.”
Apart from a few injuries, Ben is happy with the preparation and the fact that they are playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, “we have injuries but with 4 games they will be back for some of them, and having played challenge games we are in good shape. Waterford no doubt will be tough but I would be hopeful of getting off to a winning start.”
Having won the Minor All-Ireland two years ago, a number of these lads will feature, Darragh O’Sullivan, Michael Mullins, Brion Saunderson, Diarmuid Healy and Eoin O’Leary. add in the experienced Ben Cunningham and Cork should make a winning start.