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Cork’s Ruairí Deane and Derry’s Conor McAtamney. Picture: Inpho
Cork’s Ruairí Deane and Derry’s Conor McAtamney. Picture: Inpho
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Cork backlash could leave Northerners a bit Down at Páirc

Mark Woods

Football

SUNDAY, National Football League Division 2 Cork v Down, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2pm 

CORK football could do with a bit of a boost following the U21 debacle midweek and that could spell more bad news for Down.

Fifth-placed Cork are safe on six points, consigned to a second season in the division as Galway bid to join Kildare as the teams heading back to the top flight in 2018.

But, for Down, who are on four points, victory is imperative if they want to avoid a second successive relegation and end up playing in the third tier next year.

In some respects it's a sort of dead-rubber for Peadar Healy's side though that won't be factored into their thinking ahead of the Munster championship opener against Waterford at the end of next month.

Given it's the last competitive outing before heading to Dungarvan's Fraher Field nobody will want to allow their performance dip and hand ammunition to Healy and his management team.

Cork will be expected to overcome division four opponents Waterford and set-up a semi-final repeat from 2016 with Tipperary.

Saturday, June 10, has been pencilled as the date with a 5pm throw-in at Páirc Uí Rinn if it's Cork or Semple Stadium if Waterford cause a major shock.

That's for the future. Now it's about winning for the third time after previous successes against Fermanagh at home and away to Derry last weekend.

Draws in Galway and against Meath at Páirc Uí Rinn didn't help Cork's promotion cause though it was the eight-point defeat away to Clare which proved calamitous in the overall scheme of things.

Cork have had the Indian Sign over their Ulster opponents since that fateful September day in 2010, when the Sam Maguire Cup rested on Leeside.

And while Cork have slipped down the rankings their slide isn't as severe as Down's, a proud football county that has struggled to get past the first and second rounds of the qualifiers in recent seasons.

Last year was a nightmare, losing every game in league and championship and that trend continued in division two with defeats by Fermanagh at home and a two-goal loss in Ennis.

Yet, Down's performances since then reflect accurately the totally unpredictable nature of the section.

Their 1-13 to 0-14 win over Meath, apart from seriously derailing the Royals' promotion drive, was Down's first in 15 attempts.

Joe Murphy claimed the only goal and Darragh O'Hanlon contributed 0-4, three from frees, and Down, to their credit, followed up with an impressive 1-15 to 1-7 win away to Derry.

Down blitzed their Ulster rivals by scorching 1-10 in front after 25 minutes, Ryan Johnston bagging the goal with O'Hanlon once again prominent in the scoring stakes, scoring 0-6, one from a free, and Barry O'Hagan and Caolan Mooney chipping in with 0-3 apiece.

But, back-to-back defeats by Kildare and Galway have left Down hanging on for dear life, not only needing to overcome Cork, but hoping other results go their way, as well.

How Down go about diluting the influence of Colm O'Neill and captain Paul Kerrigan will be watched with interest after the pair combined to score all bar two of the 18 points in Derry.

Brendan McArdle is likely to have the task of keeping tabs on O'Neill, who is in flying form following his 0-11 from a week ago, while the midfield battle will, as ever, be key.

Cork's likely pairing of Ruairí Deane and Ian Maguire will be confronted by Aidan Carr and Peter Tormey, who hope to provide enough of a service for O'Hanlon and O'Hagan to prosper.

Cork's defence will want to avoid a repeat of the two goals conceded in Derry and that will add to Down's degree of difficulty.

Last season, in a goal-less encounter, Cork won by 0-12 to 0-7 at Páirc Uí Rinn, when O'Neill top-scored with 0-4 followed by Mark Collins on 0-3 and Kerrigan on 0-2.

Clare's position is a bit dicey. They're on five points and could be sucked into the relegation reckoning.