The family of the late Bryan O’Loughlin presented a trophy to Cork County Board at Páirc Uí Chaoimh recently. Mick O’Loughlin, Pat Horgan, Vice Chairperson Cork GAA; Francis Kenneally, PRO Cork GAA. At the front are Carol Bryan, Marc Sheehan Chairman Cork GAA and Bryan O’Loughlin Jnr. Photo: George Hatchell

Can Cork continue their winning ways?

Cork’s men are just 70 minutes away from reaching the All-Ireland football semi-final and very few among us would have thought this possible leaving Ennis on 9 April - it’s the big game of another bumper weekend.

Once again the old chestnut of a fixture clash is the main talking point as the Cork camogie and ladies football teams face must win games, while 7 football league finals are down for decision.

All-Ireland Football Championship QF

Cork v Derry on Sunday in Croke Park at 1.45pm

“Absolutely delighted with the way we have played in the last two games and it’s encouraging to beat Division 1 teams and we are really looking forward to Sunday another big test.” The words of Cork manager John Cleary on the trip to Croke Park.

A concern is the injuries and a 3rd game in as many weeks: “It is and that would be my one fault with the format is the 3 games in succession but look it is what it is now and maybe the momentum we have built up will help us. As for the injuries, Brian (Hurley) and Luke (Fahy) it’s too early to say but we will give them every chance.”

John is also thrilled with the level of support the team is now getting. “It’s the best we have seen in a while and it was a huge help last Saturday and again in the win over Mayo, so hopefully they will travel on Sunday and again it will be a big help and one the lads really appreciate.”

Another factor is the impact off the bench, again important in the last two wins as John explained: “We said to everyone on the panel, number 1 is as important as number 40 and they all have a role to play and to be fair the lads have bought into it and you see the results.”

Leaving Ennis on 9 April having lost to Clare, the prospects of a long run did not look good. John adds: “In hindsight it has worked to our advantage and we got a lot of work done on our systems in defence and attack and we are where we are now as a result and it’s a good place to be in.”

Having seen off Mayo and Roscommon, John knows that another stiff test awaits in Derry. “They are back to back Ulster champions, nearly beat Galway in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, and won promotion to Division 1 for next year, se we know exactly what we are up against.”

The league meeting earlier in the year, in which Cork got a late goal to earn a vital draw, will have no bearing says John.

What we do know about Derry is they play a particular style of football that like most teams is hard to break down, although Dublin did on the league final.

They recovered from the departure of Manager Rory Gallagher to win a thrilling Ulster Final and then in the group phase encountered Donegal, Monaghan and Clare to finish top and as a result a week’s rest ahead of this game.

There’s is a strong resilient group of players led by Conor Glass, Odhran Lynch, Gareth McKinless, Brendan Rogers, Niall Loughlin, Niall Toner and Ethan Doherty with a wealth of experience built into the squad, and they will start as favourites for this game.

The Cork team has varied little in recent games and expect the same on Sunday.

Micheál Aodh Martin made two huge saves and his kick-outs were mostly spot on; Mattie Taylor, Tommy Walsh and Rory Maguire were solid and effective going forward - all three scored - as did Luke Fahy.

Maurice Shanley and Daniel O’Mahoney went about their business in a workmanlike manner.

Colm O’Callaghan and Ian Maguire as ever excellent in midfield with the ‘Barr’s man displaying boundless energy right to the end, and along with Powter set up the winning point for Kevin O’Donovan.

The attack will need a better scoring return if this game is to be won, only Steven Sherlock and Brian O’Driscoll scored with Chris Óg Jones, Kevin O’Donovan and Conor Corbett when introduced all getting on the list.

Sean Powter was excellent, his running and distribution was central to win, while Ruairi Deane worked his socks off as did Killian O’Hanlon, and that is a trait running right through this team, a fit Brian Hurley would add another dimension, with Eoghan McSweeney and John O’Rourke options off the bench.

Derry are rightly favourites to win, but this Cork team are heading in the right direction and they are well capable of making it to the semi-final, and don’t be a bit surprised if they do.

The match is live on C103 with the programme starting early for full commentary. Best of luck lads.

Vital games in camogie and ladies football

As with their fixtures of 2 weeks ago, the dual player dilemma is dominating the build up to these, what are now must win games on Saturday.

The camogie team play Clare in Cusack Park Ennis at 3pm, while at 2pm in Clonakilty, the ladies footballers play Tipperary.

I could copy and paste the comments the piece I wrote two weeks ago, but it would serve little purpose, suffice to say that the Camogie Association and the Ladies Football are doing themselves no favours with this scheduling.

The number of former players of both codes that have commented on this during the week is testimony to the annoyance that is out there.

How hard was it for both at the start of season to sit down and iron out these issues? Remember that neither Cork team were playing last week - would it not have been easy when drawing up the master fixture list to play one of the games and avoid unnecessary but in this case deserved criticism?

In my view integration with the GAA cannot happen and should not happen until both camogie and ladies football resolve these issues, and at times I wonder do those at the top actually want integration, do they see it as an erosion of their authority?

I presume the same arrangement will apply that 2 players will play in Clonakilty and 2 in Ennis.

Let’s start with ladies football: when the sides met in the Munster Championship Cork were comfortable winners and will be expected to win this game; that said the loss to Galway will have knocked them back a bit.

The concern is that only 3 players scored, with Doireann O’Sullivan getting all bar one of the points, and irrespective of the opposition that return from any unit is not going to be good enough.

Tipperary although beaten by Galway did bag 3 goals, so Cork will need to be vigilant in defence, because in Sarah English, Ashling Moloney, Angela Mc Guigan and Emma Morrissey, Tipperary have good players.

There is still a lot of quality in this Cork team, with Melissa Duggan, Eimear Meaney and Shauna Kelly in defence, while if Eimear Kiely, Ciara O’Sullivan and Katie Quirke can offer Doireann a bit more support in the scoring stakes, Cork should win and in the process secure a quarter-final spot as runners-up which will mean another trip on the road.

Having lost their previous 4 games, the camogie team finally got the win they badly needed by eventually seeing off a resolute Down side in the last round.

On the same day, Clare really tested Galway in difficult conditions, it finished 1-13 to 0-13, which indicates Cork will get nothing easy in Ennis.

In last year’s Munster Championship, it turned into a marathon before Cork won, yet when they met in the All-Ireland it was an easier outing.

Clare know that playing in Ennis will help and knowing that it’s a winner takes all clash, the home side will be in confident mood.

Doireann Murphy, Susan Daly, Clare Hehir, Caoimhe Carmody, Lynda Daly, Niamh O’Dea, Aine O’Loughlin and Orlaith Duggan are all key players for the home side and they will feel this is game they can win.

For long periods in the win over Down, Cork were going back and across the field with aimless passing and making very little strides, yet when they delivered good quick ball into Catriona Mackey and Amy O’Connor, they benefitted and got the required scores.

If they produce a similar approach from the outset on Saturday, they should win as O’Connor and Mackey will score between them 3-5 from play, while Saoirse McCarthy and Fiona Keating also got in on the scoring.

For a period, Cork were in a bit of bother at the back but once they settled they were in control with Laura Tracey, Meabh Murphy and Meabh Cahalane also very comfortable.

If Cork are to be considered contenders, these are the games they should be winning and they probably will, to set up a QF in Croke Park a week later.

One concern for both managements is the mindset of the players, hopefully the events off the field will not distract them in their efforts to get the wins.

The Intermediate Camogie team are also in championship action on Saturday, they play Galway in Ballinlough at 5pm, and here it’s like the other two games, a must win one.

Cork were easy winners over Dublin, while Galway were less than impressive against the same opposition, and having won their league and the Munster Championship, Cork should prevail.

Especially if Niamh O’Leary, Leanne O’Sullivan, Rachel Harty, Lauren Homan and Cliona O’Callaghan produce the form they are capable of.

County championship and league finals

There are two games tonight (Thursday) in the Divisional and Colleges section of the Senior Football Championship. In Glenville it’s Avondhu v Muskerry while Donoughmore is the venue for the meeting of Imokilly v Duhallow - both games at 7.30pm.

Seven football league finals are scheduled over the weekend from Division 1 to 7. The big one is the D1 decider in Páirc Uí Rinn at 7.30pm tomorrow night with old rivals Nemo Rangers and St Finbarrs and while a few big names will be missing, any game between these two is well worth watching.

The winners they will become the first recipients of the Bryan O’Loughlin Cup, who sadly passed away early in the year, presented by Bryan’s family to honour one of nature’s gentlemen and a proud and passionate Kanturk man.