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Vital weekend for Cork teams

Wednesday, 3rd July, 2019 3:57pm

From the calm of last weekend to the real business end of the season this weekend - from here on in it’s all trapdoors and backdoors are no more, so wins are essential if the hurlers and footballers are to extend their championship ambitions.

Football

A first meeting of these sides since the introduction of the qualifiers and one that represents an ideal opportunity for both to advance to the Super 8s when first up for the winners will be All-Ireland champions Dublin on Saturday week in Croke Park. It’s the ideal incentive for both teams in Thurles on Saturday night.

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy is looking forward to the game, but is not getting distracted by the prize for the winners.

“If you think beyond the next game you lose focus. Of course we are conscious of it, but our first job is to win on Saturday and only then can deal with what’s next up.”

McCarthy admits that the panel were down in the immediate aftermath of the Munster Final.

“They were, we all were, we felt we were capable of beating Kerry, but look we took the positives from that display, work on them and then see where can improve for Saturday.”

The manager is also grateful for the two week gap. “It’s crucial, we could do very little the first week back, but it’s picked up brilliantly since then. We had an excellent training camp in Dublin over the weekend, it also gave the injured players time to recover.”

Cork actually played Laois in a challenge game a few weeks back and McCarthy was impressed: “It was a big strong physical team who work hard all over the field, they are coming in on the back of two wins, so they will not be lacking confidence.”

Laois have won back to back promotions, tested Meath in Leinster, and will not fear Cork. The Kingston brothers, Donie and Paul, did most of the damage in the win over Offaly, scoring 0-10 between them, while others to impress were Ross Munnelly, Gareth Dillon, Marty Scully, Colm Murphy and Kieran Lilis.

Cork were excellent in the Munster Final, just a few poor refereeing decisions and wrong options on the night led to the loss; hopefully lessons can be learned from that display.

Two changes then to the selected side, no real surprise at that, Tomas Clancy of Clonakilty comes in for his Fermoy namesake and Kevin O’Driscoll comes in for Paul Kerrigan.

It will be interesting to see if that is the side that will actually start, although to be fair, McCarthy and his backroom team are not into dummy teams.

Nathan Walsh was rated doubtful but has been named in a defence that excelled against Kerry, and the availability of the excellent Eoghan McSweeney is a further boost as he is a quality and capable point scorer.

James Loughrey, what a point he scored, Liam O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor were brilliant.

The midfield pairing of Ian Maguire and Killian O’Hanlon were very effective and will need to be again to give the Cork attack the platform they crave.

Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley, Mark Collins and the powerhouse that is Ruairí Deane really troubled the Kerry defence, and could have got three more goals, but will need a better return in the point scoring if they are to advance, although the wide expanse of Thurles should suit their style of play.

Cork will start as favourites, a tag they should justify if they produce the quality delivered against Kerry. If they do manage that, they will be too good for Laois; anything less and their season will come to an end - that will be seen as another setback.

For the continued development of the team, advancement to the Super 8s is crucial. They should achieve that with a win, in what has now become their biggest game of the year.

Hurling

It’s fair to say that on the back of a heavy defeat to Laois on Sunday, the last thing Joe Quaid and his team would want is a meeting with Cork, who will see this game as the ideal build up for a quarter-final clash with Kilkenny a week later.

That game has been fixed for Croke Park on 14 July at 2pm and the incentive to get back to HQ will keep Cork focused and a clear indication that the real business end of the championship is now upon us.

Cork of course themselves lost their last game as well but that was in the context that they were assured of advancing in third place, and it was three weeks ago, which gives players and management time to re-focus for the rest of the championship.

In that context, the addition of former All-Ireland medal winner Tom Kenny to the backroom team has been generally seen as a positive move which should benefit the team as they chase ultimate honours.

The only downside of course is the injury to Aidan Walsh which rules him out for Sunday and probably for a few more weeks, having had surgery on his hand in the last few days.

Aidan has made important contributions in all the games to date and his physical presence will be missed; hopefully he will still have a role to play in the coming weeks.

That aside, Cork have no further injury concerns and whatever 15 is chosen to start will be determined to lay down a marker for the expected clash with Kilkenny a week later.

In this context a very comfortable win for Cork looks to be on the cards. Especially if Bill Cooper, Patrick Horgan, Alan Cadogan, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Niall O’Leary perform with the quality they possess.

Interestingly, it’s a first meeting between the sides since a Division 2 league game in Páirc Uí Rinn back in 1997. Cork won then on a scoreline of 6-21 to 2-4.

Alan Browne got 3-2 and JBM was the Cork manager - my thanks to Jim O’Sullivan for this information. Both Cork games are live on C103.

Camogie

Dublin provide the opposition for both Cork teams in the latest round in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Championship.

The intermediate team are in Castle Road on Saturday at 5pm, and if they can play as well as they did in the narrow defeat to Galway last week, they should win and keep their hopes of making it out of the group alive.

In the senior clash at a Dublin venue, also on Saturday at 5pm, there will only be one outcome - a Cork win. Dublin are pointless, Cork are unbeaten and that situation will not change by the end of this encounter.

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