Ethan Twomey of Cork and Jason Sampson of Offaly pose with the Liam MacCarthy cup during the national launch of the Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship at Spanish Point in Clare. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

All roads lead to Tullamore

It’s a long time since both Cork senior teams have played a double-header in championship and it should make for a wonderful atmosphere on Saturday and let’s hope that the expected large Cork crowd will be in early to get behind the football team.

There’s a second round game also for the ladies footballers who after their win over Laois welcome Galway to MTU.

All-Ireland Football Championship Round 3

Cork v Tyrone on Saturday in O’Connor Park Tullamore at 3pm

“Delighted with the win against a top team in Donegal, who were unbeaten all year, but now it’s time to back it up against Tyrone,” said Cork football manager John Cleary after the match in Páirc Uí Rinn.

And how right he is - there’s a lot to play for and considering how Tyrone easily overcame Clare, this is going to be another tough match.

A win or a draw will see Cork top the group and direct passage into the QF with a two week gap between games; 2nd place gets a home preliminary QF, while 3rd place means an away PQF, with games week on week.

The feelgood factor after the Donegal game was very evident and as Sean Powter said: “It’s great to give the supporters days like this and they were brilliant today but now we must go again.”

What was most impressive about the win was the manner in which it was achieved, sticking to the process for the 70 plus minutes and showing no sign of panic. This was very evident by the way the winning points were created and finished by Steven Sherlock and Colm O’Callaghan.

This week the manager said: “As always, we reviewed the game and while lots of it was very good there was some aspects of our play that we were not happy with and have worked on them in training.”

John was also very impressed with Tyrone especially in the win over Clare, and while it took a while, they eventually pulled away. “They are an excellent team, comfortably retained their Division 1 status and were very good in the Ulster Championship and unlucky to lose to Donegal after extra-time so we know it’s going to be another big test.”

They have quality all over the field according to the manager. “Niall Morgan is a very good goalkeeper, Niall Devlin from corner-back got 2-2 against Clare, Kieran McGeary and Padraig Hampsey are excellent while in attack they have the Canavan brothers Darragh and Ruairi, Mattie Donnelly and so we know exactly what we are facing.”

Having won their first two games, John is delighted that not only have they qualified but that they control their own destiny. “We not depending on results from elsewhere and we know that a win or a draw will see us top the group and given that there are 2 Division 1 teams in it, you would have to be happy with that.”

He is also knows the importance of winning the group: “Well first of all we would have momentum and it also gives you a week off before you play the QF, last year 3 of the 4 teams that reached the semi-finals came from group winners and from a fitness level that is very important. (Playing) game on game can drain you and you pick up knocks with little recovery time.”

It also means you avoid big hitters, with Kerry, Dublin and possibly Galway as group winners.

Playing as a double-header is also pleasing. “You saw the reaction in Páirc Uí Rinn and the lads were saying afterwards in the closing minutes the crowd really got behind them and hopefully it will be the same on Saturday.”

With no injury worries, that starting 15 is unlikely to change. Chris Kelly is doing well in goal, while Daniel O’Mahony was outstanding in the Donegal game and kept Oisin Gallen fairly quiet; Rory Maguire and Matty Taylor popped up with goals and Kevin Flahive was excellent.

Maguire and O’Callaghan are top notch in midfield, with Brian Hurley, Brian O’Driscoll, Sean Powter and Mark Cronin effective in attack.

Add in the impact off the bench from Steven Sherlock and Ruairi Deane and the hard work in developing a winning mentality is coming together nicely.

There is no doubt this will be another tough test, but I am sure the work ethic which produced something like 3-4 from turnovers, along with a well executed game plan is in place and with another committed performance a win can be achieved.

As always the match is live on C103.

All-Ireland Hurling Championship preliminary QF

Cork v Offaly in O’Connor Park Tullamore on Saturday at 5.15pm

It’s been an incredible few weeks for Offaly hurling winning both the All-Ireland Under 20 Championship and following it up by capturing the Joe McDonagh Cup and with it, a return to top tier hurling for 2025.

The timing of this match is certainly not ideal from their point of view, because as manager John Kelly said: “we are and rightly so going to celebrate this win, which was so important for Offaly, for a few days and then we will look at Cork.”

The importance of it was probably best summed up by Chairman Michael Duignan when he said: “In many ways, this is bigger than winning the Under 20 All-Ireland.”

As for Cork, they are overwhelming favourites as manager Pat Ryan acknowledged. “Of course but that’s outside our control and I am really delighted for Offaly - a proud dual county, that they are back where they belong, but our job on Saturday is to win and we are fully focussed on that.”

Pat is happy with the preparation which included a weekend in Carlow. “It went very well and once we knew it was Offaly we focussed on them at our session on Sunday morning and will do so for the rest of the week.”

It’s knockout from here on in and Pat says the focus is on one game at a time. “We can’t worry about what happens after next week because we might not be there, so for now Offaly is all we thinking about.”

Injuries have improved as has the depth in the squad as was evidenced in the wins over Limerick and Tipperary. “All good - a few lads like Damien (Cahalane) and Robbie (O’Flynn) probably won’t make the weekend, but all the rest will, including Ciarán (Joyce) so that is all very positive.”

Like football counterpart, Pat is delighted with the double-header, describing is as “brilliant”. “I was in Páirc Uí Rinn for the footballers' win and now for the supporters to have the two teams on the same day is only right and should make for a cracking atmosphere.”

Cork played Offaly in the league and won comfortably but that will have no bearing on Saturday. “Two very different teams and hopefully better weather, but look we ready for it and looking forward to getting back into championship mode and an exciting few weeks ahead.”

Offaly fielded 4 under 20s in the win over Laois including Adam Screeney, while Brian Duignan had 1-4 in that game. Oisin Kelly, Cillian Kiely, Ciaran Burke, Ben Conneely, Charlie Mitchell and Jack Clancy should all feature despite their exertions of last weekend.

It was a game Laois almost let slip with 17 wides, but maybe the winning attitude the Faithful County now have helped get them over the line.

Cork are unlikely to make many changes from the Tipp win, and in defence Robert and Eoin Downey, Niall O’Leary and Mark Coleman should contain the Offaly attack.

Darragh Fitzgibbon and Ethan Twomey are developing into a formidable midfield pairing, while the Offaly defence will be hard pressed to keep tabs on Patrick Horgan, Alan Connolly, Shane Barrett and Brian Hayes. Add in the impact off the bench from Shane Kingston who might start, Luke Meade, Conor Lehane and Ciarán Joyce - another possible starter and it’s an indication of the task facing Offaly.

The only possible danger to Cork will be complacency but given the way the Munster Championship panned out, that is unlikely to happen as this affords them the opportunity to maintain the momentum gained from the brilliant wins over Limerick and Tipperary.

The reality is Cork are at a different level to an emerging Offaly side. They should and probably will win with a bit to spare, and in the process set up a quarter-final meeting with Dublin in Thurles on Saturday week.

TG4 Ladies Football Championship

Cork v Galway on Saturday in MTU at 1pm

Having got their expected and comfortable win over Laois, Cork now welcome Galway to town on Saturday boosted by the manner of their victory and also knowing it is the Connacht girl’s first competitive outing in a number of weeks.

Galway were the only team Cork beat in the league, but in the end they were both relegated so the championship is their chance of redemption.

Cork’s ability to get goals was important last Sunday in Portlaoise but expect a much better defensive effort from Galway in this game.

Ava McCauliffe with 2, Hannah Looney, Katie Quirke, Daire Kiely and Rachel Leahy bagged the goals and they will be looking to build on that momentum on Saturday.

Like Cork, Galway recovered from their poor league campaign to regain the Connacht Championship with a win 1-11 to 0-9 over Mayo and that will give them a boost for this encounter.

Andrea Trill, Leanne Coen, Emma Reaney, Roisin Leonard, Shauna Hynes and Dearbhla Gower all impressed in that win and they will not be fazed by facing Cork, even away from home.

With the expectation that Galway will also get the better of Laois, the prize on offer is a big one. Group winners get home advantage in the quarter-final, and that incentive might be enough to get Cork over the line.

Senior County Championship

With the withdrawal of both Beara and Imokilly, the Divisional and Colleges section of the County Football Championship finally gets underway tonight in Glenville where Avondhu play Muskerry at 7.30pm.