A number of Cork players on their way back from overcoming injuries are hoping to play important roles for their clubs in key county championship games over the weekend.
Cork’s last game before the lockdown was the 3-13 to 3-11 win over Derry in Division 3 of the National Football League on March 1 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A couple of weeks later the arrival of the coronavirus to these shores brought the country to a halt as sport hunkered down for the long wait.
Cork’s top scorer that afternoon, when they wore black jerseys commemorating former Lord Mayors Tomas MacCurtain and Terence McSwiney was John O’Rourke, who posted 2-2.
The talented forward was one of Carbery Rangers’ leading lights on their march to an historic first county senior football title in 2016, but O’Rourke was badly missed in their opening game of the new-look premier senior championship last month.
Injury kept him out of the Group 2 encounter with west Cork rivals Castlehaven, when another valuable source of scores for the Rosscarbery club, John Hayes, didn’t start either, though he did come on during the second half.
Now, Ross are keeping their fingers crossed that the pair will be able to line-up for the second game in the group against Ilen Rovers in Leap this afternoon.
The 2016 champions are walking a tightrope following that 0-14 to 0-9 loss to the Haven because they can’t afford any more slips with a concluding game against Newcestown, who hammered Ilen in their first game.
Another critical link in Cork’s victory, which kept them at the top of division and on course for a quick return to division 2, was Sean Powter, who wore the number six jersey, but seemed to cover every blade of grass.
He sat out Douglas’s 1-14 to 1-9 Group 3 win over Bishopstown on opening day, but is expected to return from the hamstring injury for tomorrow’s second game against Valley Rovers in Ovens at 4pm.
Powter’s explosive pace and ability to link play was evident in Cork’s win over Derry and his presence would grace any side.
Club and county colleague Kevin Flahive, who missed the entire league programme because of a shoulder injury, returned to play centre-forward against Bishopstown.
Millstreet’s Kevin Crowley could write the book on recovering from shoulder injuries, having damaged both at various stages during a career, which has been curtailed by those long absences from the game.
He suffered another shoulder injury in Cork’s win over Down, being forced off very late in a game won by the home side by 0-16 to 1-8, but Crowley returned for Millstreet’s opening intermediate A championship tie.
Despite a comfortable win over St Finbarr’s second string, Millstreet’s victory was tinged by Crowley’s early withdrawal through injury and it’s all eyes on whether he starts against Ballinora in Macroom this evening.
Injuries to Cork defenders continue to mount up following the cruciate knee ligament injury suffered by dashing Clonakilty wing-back Liam O’Donovan in early July.
He will be an interested observer in Enniskeane tomorrow for his club’s second game against the 2014 champions Ballincollig.
In the week leading up to that Derry game, Cork also lost influential middle-third operator Ruairi Deane, who sustained a serious hamstring injury during training and required surgery.
It was the only game he missed, however, because the all-action Deane was able to play some part for his club Bantry Blues in their senior A defeat by Éire Óg.
Deane came on at half-time and now looks poised to start against Kiskeam, who won their opening game, in Clondrohid this afternoon.
Second round action in the group phase in all four grades should make it clearer in terms of who’s going to contest the knock-out phase.
Yet, the bookies are in little doubt about the destination of the various titles with a traditional feel to it all.
It will surprise nobody that Nemo Rangers are 7/4 favourites to retain their senior title (now known as premier senior) with St Finbarr’s second fancies at 4/1.
O'Donovan Rossa and Knocknagree are tipped for senior A and premier intermediate glory.