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Cork bid to make it three from three

Wednesday, 5th February, 2020 4:27pm

Cork vs Down

In advance of the of the opening game in the Allianz National Football League, Cork manager Ronan Mc Carthy made two interesting observations.

The first was that “there are no easy games in this division” and then that “a good start is what we need” to get a bit of momentum.

Well McCarthy has certainly got his wish with back to back wins, and Cork will be hoping to maintain that on Sunday against a Down side that had a good win over their Ulster rivals Derry last weekend.

Cork never looked like losing to Leitrim and should have won by more - at least three goal chances were spurned in the first half. As McCarthy pointed out afterwards: “We need to be more clinical in front of goal, but at least we are creating the chances, the trick now is to convert them into scores.”

Down dropped a point in the opening round to Tipperary and it took late points to get them over the line against Derry, but that win will give them a boost ahead of their trip to Leeside.

Like most teams, Down have quality players; Conor Poland, Barry O’Hagan, Daniel McGuinness, Donal O’Hare and Paul Devlin among them, while Liam Kerr made an impact when introduced against Derry.

Cork will be determined to maintain their winning start and McCarthy also made the point that they want to turn Páirc Uí Chaoimh, “into a fortress” while aiming to get the ten points he feel is necessary to gain promotion.

The re-introduction of attacking Nemo duo Paul Kerrigan and Luke Connolly against Leitrim worked a treated as, between them, they kicked 0-6, Connolly with five, but Kerrigan was very effective and showed his experience when in possession.

Ciarán Sheehan is settling in well at full-forward, and the manner in which he took his goal is indicative of that, while Ruairí Deane’s powerful running troubles most defenders.

Ian Maguire is doing very well in midfield with a strong work ethic that gives the team a platform going forward.

Defensively Cork have also been very impressive; Micheál Aodh Martin has made a number of important saves, while Sean Powter, Mattie Taylor, Liam O’Donovan and Kevin Crowley have all done very well.

Cork have succeeded in getting game time into a lot of players, and with several more returning from injury in the coming weeks, there will be a nice depth in the squad as the campaign and the drive for promotion gathers momentum.

The important thing for Cork is to control their own destiny by winning games, especially at home. That ensures that whatever happens elsewhere will not affect our chances of getting promoted.

Of course, Down will represent a step up in quality and Cork will need to be at their best to win, but there’s a confidence in the squad that comes from winning and hopefully it can be maintained on Sunday.

Interestingly, ten years ago these sides met in the All-Ireland Final, in which Cork won. Paul Kerrigan and Ciarán Sheehan survive from that afternoon in Croke Park.

If neither side gain promotion from Division 3, they might not even contest the All-Ireland Championship come the summer and that would not be ideal for two counties will lofty ambitions.

Fitzgibbon Cup

Holders UCC face what many believe will be their stiffest test in their bid to retain the famous cup, when they play DCU in the latter’s ground on Saturday at 4pm.

UCC have a strong squad, as do DCU, and while Cork had intended resting some of the dual players against Tipperary, early injuries to Aidan Walsh and Tim O’Mahoney upset those plans.

Shane Hurley and Shane Conway join a quintet of Cork seniors in Robert Downey, Mark Coleman, Niall O’Leary, Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon in what is a balanced squad that seem to be hitting form at just the right time in this competition.

DCU are favoured by many to emulate UCC’s feat of last year and win the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon double, but the wearers of the famed skull and crossbones could end that bid on Saturday.

Camogie and Ladies Football

Having recorded an impressive double last weekend, both Cork camogie teams will endeavour to repeat that feat this weekend in Round 2 of the Littlewoods National Leagues.

The seniors travel to play Offaly in Birr on Sunday at 2pm and will be expected to win, especially if Orla Cronin, Linda Collins, Laura Treacy, Leanne O’Sullivan and the returning Ashling Thompson play as well as they did in the comfortable win over Waterford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Saturday night.

Meath are the visitors to Castle Road on Saturday at 2pm for the intermediate clash and might just prove too strong for a youthful home side who will, though, be boosted by their excellent win away to Kilkenny last weekend.

The big game in Division 1 of the Lidl Ladies Football National League is the meeting of the 2019 league champions Cork against the All-Ireland champions Dublin in Croke Park at 5pm on Saturday.

Cork have full points from their two outings to date, while Dublin were held to a draw in their opening game, so they will be anxious to get another win over a Cork team who many would see as the main threat to their championship ambitions later in the year.

These are without question the two best teams in the country, and while the result might have little bearing at what happens later in the year, they will both want to put down a marker. Home advantage might just give Dublin an edge.

96FM/C103 Awards

The 16th year of these awards culminated in the gala banquet in the Rochestown Park Hotel on Friday last at which GAA President John Horan was the guest of honour.

Cork Under 20 football star Brian Hartnett of Douglas was the overall winner for his contribution to Cork’s All-Ireland success, similarly minor football captain Conor Corbett was the recipient of the Kieran O’Driscoll Youth Award as he was a key figure in the Rebels winning the title for the 11th time.

The Donal Lehane Distinguished Career award went to former Cork hurling star Timmy Crowley and the three time All-Ireland winner was a worthy recipient of this accolade.

My sincere thanks to everyone who ensured that the night was a resounding success and we now look forward to the 17th year of these prestigious awards, and in the coming weeks the first of our 2020 winners will be announced.

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