Mayo will be the big guns to beat when Cork return to Division 2 in 2021

Mayo will be the big guns to beat when Cork return to Division 2 in 2021

Lee Keegan of Mayo after the loss to Tyrone at the weekend, which sees them join Cork in Division 2. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

CORK will be reacquainted with some familiar faces when they return to Division 2 in the national football league next season.

A bloodless victory by walkover over Longford at the weekend provided them with the perfect seven from seven record as the Rebels bounced back from last season’s relegation.

They will be joined in 2021 by Meath, Kildare, Clare and Down while newcomers Mayo, Westmeath and Laois wouldn’t be classified as strangers either.

Cork lost their Division 2 status in 2019, edged out by Clare after they both finished on five points apiece.

In that campaign Ronan McCarthy’s side drew with Fermanagh and Meath, lost to Kildare, Clare and Donegal and overcame Tipperary and Armagh.

Seven months after the opening weekend of fixtures back in March, the seven-game series was wrapped up last weekend.

Covid’s arrival, not only on these shores but across the globe, impacted on all our lives with sport no different.

It was a final round of games without too much hullabaloo apart from Mayo existing Division 1 for the first time in 26 years after conceding three goals at home to Tyrone and losing by a point.

That will grate.

Mayo ended on five points, one less than Monaghan, who also had to endure an anxious finale, when sharing the points with Meath.

It gave the Ulster side six points, so they avoided joining Meath in dropping a tier.

Cork’s most recent league encounter with Mayo came on the opening day of the Division 1 campaign in 2016 with Cork prevailing by 1-18 to 0-12 at Pairc Ui Rinn.

Cork were relegated that season, however, on scoring difference.

Laois produced one of the great comebacks of the season just finished, scoring 3-3 without reply in the closing stages of their game against Fermanagh.

The midland county appeared to be staring down the barrel of relegation to the third tier, when trailing by 3-12 to 1-8 and looking like five points wouldn’t be enough to avoid the drop.

But, Laois, to their credit, came like an express train to snatch a couple of precious league points to leave Clare and Cavan to sweat it out.

Both ended on six points apiece, but Clare’s 1-14 to 0-15 success in the head-to-head was the key result and helped preserve their status for another 12 months.

The other notable performance came from Limerick, who clinched the division 4 title to add to the McGrath Cup won at the start of the year.

They survived a late rally away to Sligo to win by 1-16 to 1-14 with Hugh Bourke contributing 1-3 as the Shannonsiders collected their third title in 11 seasons.

It all meant three of the four champions were supplied by Munster counties as Kerry swept to their 21st division 1 title with a comfortable home win over under-strength Derry, to add to Cork and Limerick annexing divisions 3 and 4.

Roscommon continued their yo-yo story with division 1 as they made an immediate return as Division 2 champions, finishing on 11 points, two more than Armagh, who also go up.

Kerry had a point to spare over All-Ireland champions, Dublin, 11 points to 10 and their scoring returns were even closer.

On average, the Kingdom scored one point more than their great rivals in accumulating scores, 133 compared to 126, but they couldn’t be separated in scores conceded, 112 apiece.

Little wonder then that people are anticipating a possible humdinger should they collide in the championship though there’s a bit to be negotiated before that becomes a reality.

Tipperary and Waterford will continue in Divisions 3 and 4 respectively next season.

The Premier County slipped past Leitrim by two points to send the Connacht county to division 4 while the Deise lost to Antrim in a game played in Dundalk.

The following are the divisions for 2021: 

Division 1: Kerry, Dublin, Galway, Tyrone, Donegal, Monaghan, Roscommon and Armagh.

Division 2: Meath, Mayo, Kildare, Westmeath, Laois, Clare, Cork and Down.

Division 3: Cavan, Fermanagh, Derry, Longford, Tipperary, Offaly, Limerick and Wicklow.

Division 4: Leitrim, Louth, Antrim, Wexford, Carlow, Sligo, Waterford and London.

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