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Dermot McBride of Derry with Colm O’Neill of Cork in their last league meeting in 2014 at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Dermot McBride of Derry with Colm O’Neill of Cork in their last league meeting in 2014 at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: INPHO/Donall Farmer
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Despite the long trip to Derry the Cork footballers can find a way to win

Mark Woods

Football

SUNDAY National Football League Division 2: Derry v Cork, Celtic Park, 1pm.

THREE years ago this pair finished first and second in division one. Now they're battling to avoid dropping to the third tier.

Cork topped the table back then with 11 points, two more than Derry, and their 2014 meeting at Páirc Uí Rinn was the classic game of two-halves, Cork dominant in the first, Derry on the resumption.

Cork hung on to win by a point in a high-scoring affair, 2-18 to 3-14, and they would gladly accept a repeat, facing into their penultimate game with a home tie against Down to come on Sunday week.

The counties also met in 2015 in what was a dead-rubber because Cork were already guaranteed finishing at the summit and Derry were consigned to relegation to division two.

The game was played in Owenbeg, watched by 909 spectators, who saw Derry end their campaign by registering their first success, 2-15 to 1-11.

The Ulster men, too, crave a similar victory, currently a point behind Cork at the foot of the table with Fermanagh and Down also bracketed with the Rebels and Meath and Clare a point in front of that trio.

As is the norm with division two, the relegation issues won't be decided until the final series of games, particularly as Fermanagh, Down and Clare are unlikely to get any return from their difficult assignments.

Fermanagh must travel to play Meath, who came back from the dead to draw in Cork last weekend, and it's hard to see any result other than a convincing Meath victory.

And while Down have home advantage, visitors Galway are second in the table and will be expected to cement their drive for the other promotion place.

The Banner travel to face the leaders Kildare in Newbridge, where the lillywhites look poised to clinch promotion.

Cork's main injury concern is midfielder Aidan Walsh, who suffered a knee injury in attempting to shoot for a point early in the Meath game.

Should the Kanturk player not make it, then Ian Maguire is the obvious figure to join the consistent Ruairí Deane in the middle with John O'Rourke starting in the half-forward line, having replaced Walsh.

That apart, the team is unlikely to show many changes though Ryan Price may get his turn between the posts, Ken O'Halloran having started last time out.

Cork can take plenty of encouragement from the opening 45 minutes of the Meath game, when they registered an impressive 0-16 to lead by nine only to be reeled in near the finish.

They could only add two more points against the wind in the remainder and when you throw in a total of 13 wides it shows there's plenty of scope for even more improvement in that scoring stakes.

Cork have totalled 3-60 from their five games to date, the second lowest return, ahead of Down, in the section, though their defence stats are more encouraging, joint third along with Galway and Down in that department. Only Kildare and Clare have tighter defences.

The form shown by Colm O'Neill and Mark Collins in particular should provide Cork with plenty of optimism ahead of their long journey to the other end of the country.

The Ballyclough player looked sharp on the ball and showed regularly while Collins as both play-maker and finisher looked the part on the '40.

The scoring burden has to spread more, however. Captain Paul Kerrigan is due a big return and this could be the day for the Nemo Rangers player to convert his opportunities.

O'Rourke's presence from the start would add another weapon to the attack while Peter Kelleher again showed he has the potential to pose problems for opponents, especially as Derry possess the worst defence in the division.

They conceded five goals last week to Galway while Meath scored three in their 15-point success.

Every team has scored goals against the Ulster side, who've leaked 11 in all, suggesting Cork can add to their woes.