Patrick Horgan catches a ball over Huw Lawlor of Kilkenny during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A loss by a point at SuperValu Páirc Ui Chaoimh last Saturday. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Must-win game for Cleary’s footballers at the Páirc

A quick glance at the respective Allianz National League tables does not make for happy reading - 4 games played between hurling and football and no points accrued. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks - it will certainly need to.

It’s a big weekend also for Ger Manley as he oversees his first competitive game with the Cork senior camogie team, while there is also ladies football action and a D2 camogie game.

Allianz NFL Division 2

Cork v Cavan on Saturday in SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 4pm

“We need to start winning games and hopefully that will come on Saturday, but we know Cavan will be tough opposition; they beat Kildare and then ran a very good Donegal team very close losing by just a point,” John Cleary said ahead of the visit of the Ulster side to Leeside.

Cavan may have just come up from the 3rd division but under new manager Ray Galligan they have shown enough in their 2 games to date that they are heading in the right direction.

John was very disappointed with the loss to Louth. “Absolutely, we were playing well - we then conceded 2 goals in quick succession and ultimately that proved the difference, even though we got back into the game, took the lead but just didn’t do enough to see it out.”

The competitive nature of Division 2 ensures every game is a tough one: “no question about that there is no easy game in this division and having our first two away from home was a challenge but look we knew that back in October, so that’s not an excuse but it’s good to be playing at home this week.”

It has been two weeks since the Louth game and that might also benefit them as John pointed out. “We had 3 games in a row there - the Kerry match and then the 2 league games, so we have had a good two weeks of training behind us and that should help.”

Injuries have also impacted and John was hopeful that a few will be available for selection. “We will look at it with the medical people but Sean Powter and Conor Corbett are two that could come into contention, they both trained this week, while Micheál Aodh is also back training, the other lads though are still long term (injured).”

The availability of some might shape the starting 15, which should include Luke Fahy, Sean Meehan, Mattie Taylor and Rory Maguire in defence.

Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan will once again be the midfield pairing and if they can get a foothold here, it would a benefit to the attack that could prosper in the wide open spaces of the ‘Páirc.

Brian Hurley could also be a bit sharper having had a break from playing, while Steven Sherlock, Ruairí Deane, add in the possibility of Powter and Corbett and there is a bit more punch in that area.

Cavan have a nice balanced team with Killian Clarke, Ryan Donohue, Ciaran and Oisin Brady, and Niall Carolan are big players for them.

It is without doubt a huge game for Cork, a 3rd loss would put them in a perilous position with relegation coming into the rear view mirror and that is a scenario they will want to avoid especially now that the league and championship are linked.

Playing at home is welcome and should help - that and a consistent 70 minutes along with a better return for the attack is vital.

With so much at stake, I expect the players to respond and hopefully get the win they so badly need and that might kick start their campaign.

The match as ever is live on C103.

Very Division 1 Camogie

Cork v Kilkenny on Saturday in Nowlan Park at 2pm

“It’s never easy going to Nowlan Park but we are looking forward to it and it’s nice to finally get the season underway,” said new Cork camogie manager Ger Manley ahead of Saturday’s opener.

As for the preparation Ger explained, that even if the Ashbourne Cup caused some disruption, “we were a bit late getting back after the celebrations but that’s not a concern. We are training away, had a 3 challenge games so happy enough. The 3rd level competition did impact as we had players with UCC and MTU but at least they were playing games.”

The panel too has undergone some changes. “Chloe Sigerson and Orla Cronin have opted out, two great players and we wish them well, while we have also brought in players who impressed in the county championship which meant we had to let some go.

We will be taking just 26 to our league games and some others that are eligible will feature with the division 2 team.”

What is he hoping to get from the league? “Well we will try and win every game, that might not happen, but if we learn something new every day we go out, we will be happy.”

The Munster Championship follows soon after the league and some of these games will be played before hurling matches and that is something that Ger agrees with. “Brilliant idea - it gives the players, who train as hard as the lads, a higher profile which they deserve so it will be all systems go.”

One other issue that looks like it won’t arise is a clash of fixtures with the ladies football. “That’s good I think. We have games the same weekend but not the same day and hopefully it will stay like that for the championship.”

Word is that several Kilkenny players, who are also under new management, are unavailable including Denise Gaule and that might weaken their early season challenge.

Cork can call on regulars Katrina Mackey, Amy Lee, Ashling Thompson, Laura Treacy and Amy O’Connor and even away from home, they should make a winning start to the campaign.

Very Division 2 Camogie

Cork v Kilkenny on Saturday at Castle Road at 2pm

Having recorded wins over Tipperary and Galway both away from home, the familiar surroundings of Castle Road will help them as they bid make it three from three.

The win over Galway was impressive as they finished strongly on an afternoon when top forward Lauren Homan was unavailable, they showed enough resolve to get the job done.

Kilkenny have lost their opening 2 games and that is unusual for a county who place a strong emphasis on the league.

They lost to Cork, after a replay in last year’s final, and they will be keen to get back on track, and what better way to start then by winning this one.

That though will be a big ask; Niamh O’Leary, Emily O’Donoghue, Cliona Dooley, Laura Doyle, Katie Walsh, Fiona Nelligan and the returning Homan should see Cork maintain their winning run.

Lidl Ladies Football Division 1

Cork v Waterford on Sunday in Páirc Uí Rinn at 2pm

Like John Cleary’s side, this is a vital game for Shane Roynane’s team as they bid to put back to back losses behind them, particularly the last one - a comprehensive defeat in Tralee by Kerry.

There is no doubt that this Cork side are in transition when so many key players that backboned their success of recent years are no longer available.

The other issue is the over reliance on Katie Quirke who has done the bulk of their scoring to date, and that is an area they will need to improve on if they are to make progress.

This is a game they will have targeted to win as the Deise girls are pointless, along with Galway, after 3 rounds and a Cork win would ease the pressure in relation to relegation and keep alive their chances of making the play-offs, although that could be a tough ask with Dublin and Meath yet to play.

Laura O’Mahony, Libby Coppinger, Hannah Looney, Melissa Duggan and Emma Cleary are all good players and should have enough to get a badly-needed win.

The draw for the All-Ireland series was made over the weekend, how Cork fare in the Munster Championship will determine what group they will play in. They will obviously bid to retain their title, and they open their defence of the title against Sunday’s opponents on 20 April.

In the Munster Minor Football Championship, Cork who beat Clare in round 1, face the old rivals Kerry who also won their opening game in Cloughduv on Saturday at 2pm.