CORK’S anticipated promotion back to Division 2 of the national football league might be in vain, according to manager Ronan McCarthy.
The Rebels should clinch the Division 3 title against relegation-haunted Louth at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday (4pm) with a game to spare, away to Longford the following week.
“I’m not sure what difference it will make because there’s talk already about regionalising the league next season,” he said.
“At one point it was probably very important, now I’m not so sure. There may be a restructuring because of Covid, but we will have to wait and see.”
As a player, McCarthy played in the 1998 league, which was operated on a regional basis with Cork playing and losing to the likes of Wicklow.
Cork were part of a nine-team Group D, containing Munster rivals Waterford, Limerick, Tipperary and Clare, as well as Down, Roscommon and Kildare.
“We’re thankful to be in a position to see it out, however. All year I felt it wasn’t going to happen and naturally we welcome the opportunity to complete the league.”
One player who won’t be involved again this season is Éire Óg’s Ciarán Sheehan, Cork’s fourth-highest scorer with 1-7 who also misses out on the Munster semi-final against Kerry at the start of next month.
“Ciaran had a minor procedure on his knee last week and will play no further part in either league or championship with us.
“He was trying to manage his issue, playing bits and pieces of matches and maybe training only a quarter of the time.
“But, at some stage you have to make a call on it and Ciaran had his procedure, which wasn’t major, four to six weeks, though it ties up an on-going issue,” said McCarthy.
Sheehan is the most high-profile injury casualty, but there are others.
“Liam O’Donovan is out long term with a cruciate and Tomás Clancy (Fermoy) is unlikely to return until Christmas.
“He was stretchered off in a club game with a very bad calf tear and some Achilles damage. Tomás had no chance once the extent of the injury became clear.
“Kevin Crowley injured his shoulder in a club challenge game and he has had issues with his shoulder in the past. He may need a procedure on that which would rule him out for us, too.
“Sean White was training away, but nicked his hamstring in a hurling game with Clonakilty though he should be able to train this week.
“Sean Powter was training very well until he also gave his hamstring a bit of a nick and he could be a bit longer in returning.
“He has just started back running and we’ll see how we progress with him. Given his history over the last three years, we will treat him cautiously.
“Both players have a history of hamstring trouble and you’d have to be cautious with them.”
Cork returned to training the week starting on September 14 but with only six or seven regulars because of the on-going club championships.
“We brought in some of the U20s, players who had done well in the club championship, fellows like Niall Hartnett (Douglas, joining his brother Brian in the squad), Jack McCarthy (Carrigaline), Daniel O’Mahony (Knocknagree), Blake Murphy (St Vincent’s) as well as young Gavin Creedon, a goalkeeper with Kilshannig.
“We weren’t expecting players back last week until the county finals were postponed and this involved 16 players.
“As a consequence, we’ve had a groundswell of numbers and we will review that over the coming days. We will obviously have to tighten that down.”
McCarthy paid tribute to the returning players from Nemo Rangers, Castlehaven, Duhallow and St Finbarr’s, who rejoined the fold Tuesday last week.
“The attitude was good, the mindset right, and we had a very productive week of training.
“Coach Cian O’Neill and fitness coach Kevin Smyth came into their own because we have to be very careful what load we put on the players in trying to get the maximum from a session.
“I think the Cian-Kevin combination has been outstanding from that point of view,” McCarthy concluded.