Tommy Walsh after his side’s heavy defeat in the Allianz Football League Division 2 match against Donegal at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Vital game for footballers as hurlers begin league campaign

Once again there’s another busy weekend coming up with 4 Cork teams in action and for the footballers and ladies footballers, they will be looking to bounce back after defeats last weekend.

Allianz NFL Division 2

Cork v Louth in Ardee on Sunday at 1pm

“We were outfought, outthought and obviously outscored and we can have no complaints with the result and it was very disappointing. It’s the heaviest defeat we have suffered in the last 2 years, but look, we will just have to put our hands up and learn from it.” Cork manager John Cleary after a heavy defeat in dreadful conditions in Ballybofey last Sunday.

To be fair to John, he was not using the conditions as an excuse. “They were the same for both teams, and funnily enough after about 20 minutes we were level and we still felt at half-time, 6 behind, it was not beyond us, but they dominated the start of the 2nd half and were deserving winners.”

In advance of the game, John felt it was going to a tough one and he was proved right; big crowd, Jim McGuinness back in charge and at home - all factors that correctly pointed to a Donegal win.

There was very little Cork could take from the game; 2-6 is a poor return. In contrast, in the conditions 1-20 is exceptional.

Cork did create a couple of goal chances 1 in each half, had they been converted it might have been different.

A couple of other worrying stats - backed by the wind and you had to be there to appreciate its strength, 1-3 was scored and there was just 1 wide.

John was not hiding from the fact that Sunday’s trip to Ardee has taken on added significance.

“Look the defeat today (Sunday) will not define our season, but it makes every game now very important and the fact that we are on the road again on Sunday makes it a bit harder, but we will review today and to be fair the players put their hands up and we will go again.”

It will be the 3rd meeting with Louth in the space of 12 months with 1 win each.

John recalls last year’s league game: “We lost in Ardee last year.

It’s a tight pitch, could have won but didn’t take the chances we got and paid for it. Louth gave Armagh a real battle yesterday (Saturday) away from home as well so we know it’s going to be another tough battle.”

Louth suffered a blow when Mickey Harte unexpectedly left to take over Derry, but they acted swiftly and former Dublin star Ger Brennan has slotted in with ease and while they also lost a couple of players.

However they will take a lot from the Armagh game, even in defeat, and with home advantage and Cork under a bit of pressure, will feel they can win.

Sam Mulroy, Craig Lennon, Tommy Durnin and Paul Matthews impressed in that game.

What of Cork? Not a lot of positives from the long trip to Donegal, but the players and management will surely look for a response. In a similar situation last year, a home loss to Meath was followed by a win over Kildare in Newbridge - a repeat would do nicely.

The experienced players like Ian Maguire, Brian O’Driscoll, Ruairí Deane, Brian Hurley and Colm O’Callaghan have important roles to play in this must-win game.

If they can show the leadership that is needed, Cork can win, indeed they must win if they are to harbour any hopes of promotion.

Allianz NHL D1A

Cork v Clare in Cusack Park Ennis on Sunday at 1.45pm

Having had their Munster league campaign abandoned after the game v Limerick fell victim to the weather on 3 occasions, Cork manager Pat Ryan was taking the philosophical view.

“It is what it is, the weather in January can be unpredictable so it was out of our hands; naturally we would have liked to get more games but we just moved into training and parked it.”

Pat like other managers is also conscious of the ‘load’ on players at this time of the year with Fitzgibbon action, even this week a lot of the panel are involved on Thursday night. “It is an issue and we have to deal with it, I can’t understand why, like the Sigerson in football, games cannot be played on Tuesday or Wednesday, but like the weather, we deal with it and take everything into consideration when picking the team for Sunday.”

A few players won’t, owing to injury be involved for the Clare game, but could be available for Kilkenny a week later. “Alan (Connolly), Rob (Downey), Mark (Coleman) are just three, while Declan (Dalton) and Padraig (Power) are long term and will be out for a while.”

The other factor is that the league now has taken on added significance in that your finishing place in this year’s version will determine where you play next year and obviously Cork will want to be in the top tier.

The last time Cork won the league was way back in 1989. “Because we are representing Cork, we want to win and this team is no different.

We want to win the league and if that does not happen, we want to ensure we are in the top tier next season.”

Looking at the groups there is no doubt D1A is tough. With the exception of Offaly, Clare, Wexford, Waterford and Galway would be seen as genuine championship contenders.

By contrast Antrim, Westmeath and even Dublin are a bit off the pace, the top 3 in D1A and 1B will form the top tier next season joined by the 4th best placed team from the two groups, and they are likely to come from Division 1A.

Apart from wanting to win the league, what is else is Pat looking for from the league? “Get depth into the squad for the championship coming up; we have a lot of players coming through from the under 20 teams of the last few years all very good players at that and getting game time into them will further develop them and as a consequence the team.”

Just like the footballers, it’s a tough opener against a good Clare side even if they are missing the injured Tony Kelly.

“Any away game is tough. We lost up there last year in the championship, drew the league game so we know it won’t be easy and then we have Kilkenny a week later in the Páirc, so two good tests but we are happy with where we are and looking forward to the next few months.”

The composition of the starting 15 will be interesting - probably a mixture of youth and experience. Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Patrick Collins and Shane Kingston fit into the latter category, while Ciaran Joyce, Eoin Roche, Robbie Cotter and Conor O’Callaghan into the former.

Cusack Park is never an easy place to get a win in, but the absence of Kelly and a more balanced Cork team might give them the edge and with it the two points on offer.

The game is live on C103.

Camogie and ladies football

There were mixed results last weekend with two more important games coming up.

In D2 of the Very Camogie League Cork with a much changed team got the better of Tipperary and will look to build on when they travel to Kinvara on Saturday to play Galway at 2pm, who had a win over Kilkenny in their opening game.

Lauren Homan got the vital goal in The Ragg but is unavailable this week and she will be a loss, but Niamh O’Leary, Molly Lynch, Grainne Cahalane and Niamh O’Regan all played well and can do so again. That said the management have made a point of getting game time into all on the panel with an eye to the championship so the starting 15 might be altered.

One other camogie game is on Friday when the senior team head to Borrisleigh to play Tipperary at 7.30pm.

The match is a fundraiser in aid of a young lad who is undergoing cancer treatment and all monies will go to the Paddy Duffy Cancer Recovery.

The Munster champions v the All-Ireland champions - well done to all involved in this worthy venture.

Having lost to Armagh last Sunday, there’s a difficult away game for Cork in the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1 with a trip to Tralee on Bank Holiday Monday at 3pm against a Kerry side that have won their opening two games and on from are favoured to make it 3 from 3.

Cork can ill afford another loss with Meath and Dublin to come, so Shane Roynane will be looking to bounce back from that 2 point defeat in Páirc Uí Rinn.

There are two big games tonight (Thursday) in round 2 of the Fitzgibbon Cup and are they are must wins for the Cork sides or else their season is over.

UCC play Maynooth in the Mardyke, while MTU also have home advantage for their meeting with DCU - both games have 7pm starts.