SIX years ago Cork and Derry finished first and second in that order in Division 1 of the National Football League.
They met in early March in Páirc Uí Rinn with Cork winning a strange game by 2-18 to 3-14, having been out the gap before the Ulster side almost caught them in a nerve-tingling climax.
Tomorrow, the counties from opposite ends of the country do battle once more, except this time in division 3.
It’s not an example of how the mighty have fallen even if Cork and Derry have such a history and tradition to suggest otherwise.
Indeed, Derry’s fall from grace included a spell in Division 4 last season, the lowest rung of the ladder.
Still, there’s only one way to go, when you’re at the bottom, with Derry setting out on that slow journey back to where they believe they belong.
What it does show, however, is that the league is unforgiving if teams don’t measure up and there is no escape even if there’s a wafer-thin line between survival and relegation.
And as Cork and Derry, among many others, have found out in recent times, scoring difference and even head-to-head results have been the arbiters.
Back in 2014, Cork paraded a number of players, Paul Kerrigan, John O’Rourke and Tomás Clancy, who will be on duty again tomorrow at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the 2pm throw-in.
They will recall how a hush descended on Pairc Ui Rinn when Derry midfielder Fergal Doherty attempted an equalising point in the closing act of a gripping game.
Having been 11 points ahead at one stage during an incident-packed opening half, Cork could only look on as the outstanding Doherty tried to pocket his third point.
Ken O’Halloran in the Cork goal offered the first clue about Doherty’s accuracy as he joyfully waved his hands to signal a wide before the umpire confirmed the effort had veered right of the target.
The final whistle duly followed and Cork sank to their knees in relief and joy at having maintained their 100% record and stay top of the division, heading for the semi-finals with three games still to play.
You wouldn’t have given tuppence for Derry’s chances as they trailed by 2-8 to 0-3 after 24 minutes because Cork were a different class and oozing confidence.
They had resumed from where they left off the previous week at Croke Park, a result against the Dubs, which clearly had them raring to go again.
Kerrigan set the tone by opening the scoring with a point inside 25 seconds which could easily have been a goal and Cork built on it by adding four more inside eight minutes.
Derry couldn’t get beyond midfield as Cork were first to the breaking ball, which was then relayed quickly into the full-forward line, where Brian Hurley, in particular, looked keen.
In the 13th minute, Cork stunned the visitors with a goal made and finished in Rosscarbery, John Hayes floating the ball in for Carbery Rangers colleague O’Rourke to fist it home.
Gradually, Derry began to sort out midfield and they became an attacking threat at last, but after captain Mark Lynch kicked their third point from a free Cork slammed in a second goal after 21 minutes.
Someone didn’t tell Fermoy’s Clancy that corner-backs don’t finish moves by planting the ball in the top corner of the net, but that was the outcome after Kerrigan and Hayes combined to rob Derry of possession in their own half-back line.
As the interval approached Cork still enjoyed a comfortable advantage, 2-9 to 0-4 clear, but in the blink of an eye, it was reduced to five points after Derry pounced for a couple of quick-fire goals.
A third goal entering the closing quarter made it tighter and Cork were relieved to hear the final whistle.
CORK: K O’Halloran (Bishopstown); A Cronin (Nemo Rangers), M Shields (St. Finbarr’s, c), Tomás Clancy (Fermoy); J Loughrey (Mallow), J McLoughlin (Kanturk), K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCárthaighs); F Goold (Macroom), A O’Sullivan (Castletownbere); M Collins (Castlehaven), P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers), J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); D Goulding (Éire Óg), B Hurley (Castlehaven), J Hayes (Carbery Rangers).