CORK’S first big test? Based on tradition and recent meetings the visit of Down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday (2pm) for the third game in Division 3 should reveal more about the Rebels’ promotion hopes.
With all due respect to Offaly and Leitrim, the Ulster county would appear to be a cut above the other pair and Down will travel with confidence and play with a certain swagger.
That manager Ronan McCarthy has kept faith with 14 of the starting team from last week’s win in Carrick-on-Shannon should provide a high degree of familiarity even if positions may differ.
Damien Gore is the only change at right corner-forward in a line containing Ciarán Sheehan and Cathail O’Mahony which is the same as that which started against Offaly.
Gore and O’Mahony should have been in action tonight on opposite sides of the Trench Cup final between CIT and Mary Immaculate, but in the apparent non-stop world of of GAA fixture changes that game is now put back to Wednesday.
Given that Cork bench also contains other CIT students, Anthony Casey, Paul Ring and Killian O’Hanlon, it’s patently obvious that a date-change was required to cater for all demands and common-sense has prevailed.
It’s a topic McCarthy discussed recently as the Sigerson Cup, John Kerins Cup and U20 club championship games combined to create an unfair work-load for elite players so early in the season.
“You’re trying to mind players. To be fair to Kevin Smyth and our S&C team, they do a lot of monitoring of minutes players are playing,” he said.
“We’re all independent republics really. Clubs are going to look after their players and make their own choices about the players.
“Colleges are the same and really someone has to take control of it which is often the inter-county team.
“If teams work together it can be managed, but it’s a lot. We factor in the amount of football our players have played in selecting teams.
“The thing is to do the right thing by the player. You can make a short-term decision to play a player in an attempt to win the game, but you can pay a price for that by having him out for a month or longer if the player is fatigued.
“You make the best judgment call you can. It’s very compressed and is hard to manage, but we try.” Cork’s scoring spread is impressive with 13 players in all getting in on the act after just a couple of games.
Sheehan leads the way with 1-5 followed by O’Mahony on 0-6, Luke Connolly and Michael Hurley on 0-5 apiece and John O’Rourke and Sean White with 0-3 each.
Cork’s scoring difference is a strong +16 well ahead of Longford, Down and Tipperary in that order and it’s an area which has often come back to haunt the rebels in recent years.
Down emerged victorious in the Ulster derby with Derry last weekend, winning by 0-14 to 0-12 on their own patch in Newry.
Donal O’Hare kicked six points from frees in a tight game with Down only going in front for the first time five minutes from the end.
The previous week both teams drew, Derry at home to Leitrim and Down away to Tipperary.
Down manager Paddy Tally offered his opinions afterwards. “Both teams were treading water in the first half, but I thought the second half was superb, with quality play and quality scores.
“Every single ball mattered. It was a game of nerve and we were fortunate enough to get the scores at the right time.
“Derry probably had the better scoring chances in the second half but credit to our players, who kept going to the end,” he was quoted as saying.
Cork and Down have one thing in common and that’s converting chances into scores. Cork have just one goal from their two outings and it should be more given the opportunities spurned.
Points’ scoring isn’t an issue for Cork though as reflected in the 0-20 against Offaly and the 15 chalked up in difficult conditions a week ago, but Down aren’t as prolific.
Tally picked out the 0-10 each draw with 14-man Tipperary on opening night as a prime example though 14 points against Derry is not to be sniffed at.
“The one thing that let us down in the Tipp game was our shooting. We created a lot of chances and we didn’t take them.
“That’s disappointing because we would back our players to be more efficient in front of goal, but we missed free kicks too and at crucial times in the game,” he added.
It was also a point stressed by Rory Gallagher, the Derry manager, who lamented his side’s inability to convert chances into scores.
“It’s hugely disappointing, not to come away with at least a point. I thought we’d done enough to win it, but to do that you have to take your chances,” he said.
Cork are the only county in division 3 with a 100% record from their two games and are a point clear of Longford, Down and Tipperary.
The league takes a break the following week before McCarthy’s charges head to Thurles to play Tipp tomorrow fortnight.
Derry v Tipperary, Owenbeg, 1pm; Louth v Offaly, Gaelic Grounds Drogheda, 2pm; Cork v Down, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm; Longford v Leitrim, Pearse Park, 2pm.