The Denis Hurley column: Cork footballers’ woes are no laughing matter

The Denis Hurley column: Cork footballers’ woes are no laughing matter
Sam Ryan shows his disappointment after losing to Meath. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

UP near the top of things I never thought I’d have to explicitly state is the following: I don’t, have not and never will hate Blackrock National Hurling Club.

Why the need to specify a lack of ill-will towards Cork’s most successful hurling operation? As is the cause of most bad things in the world, it was a joke taken too seriously. 

Meath, who beat Cork in the Allianz FL Division 2 on Saturday night, availed of warm-up facilities at Church Road prior to heading to Páirc Uí Rinn.

The hospitality shown was in keeping with anything we had received from the club down the years and, credit to Meath, they tweeted their thanks to the Rockies.

For us, it seemed like an open goal – “Blackrock showing they only care about Cork hurling and not Cork football.” There was a brief second where we wondered if we should make clear it was meant in jest, but then we reasoned that nobody would think it was anything else. 

Sadly, we were wrong.

It went so far over a few heads that it might as well have been the International Space Station (credit to former Cork City chairman John O’Sullivan for that line) and the replies came quickly and aggressively. Finally, I got to feel like an English football writer who had inadvertently caused a particular team’s fans to feel slighted.

It was explained to all who replied that there was nothing more to the tweet than intended humour but most didn’t reply back. The best response came from the Kildare account The Cill Dara Times, who said: “Tough crowd. Would've thought the football people in Cork would by now know a joke when they see one.”

Sadly, there’s more than a modicum of truth to that one as Saturday’s defeat meant a third loss in four games for the Cork footballers and, with games against Tipperary away, Donegal at home and Armagh away to come, it’s hard to see how the Rebels will manage to accrue the points needed in order to avoid relegation to Division 3.

As Cork City have learned, when a team has a couple of defeats, it’s hard to summon confidence levels and things can spiral into a self-fulfilling prophecy – you’re losing because you’re lacking belief and the more you lose, the more the belief is eroded.

Since the beginning of 2018, Cork have played 14 games across league and championship, with just four wins recorded – against Down, Fermanagh and Meath in last year’s league and Tipperary in the Munster SFC semi-final on May 26.

For the players and management, it must feel so frustrating to go out in each game wanting to believe that this is the one where things will go right only to experience more disappointment each time.

Next Saturday night’s game away to Tipperary is must-win in terms of retaining Division 2 status, but even if a victory was to be achieved, it may not be enough. However, beyond the prospect of relegation, a win would be welcome just as a boost ahead of a possible championship meeting at the start of June, with Cork set to host Tipp or Limerick.

Prior to the Meath game, the Cork ladies’ football team were also in action at Páirc Uí Rinn, hosting their Tipp counterparts. For much of the encounter, Ephie Fitzgerald’s side looked to be in control but Tipp stuck doggedly with them and a late goal from 16-year-old debutant Caitlin Kennedy gave them their first Division 1 points while centre-forward Aishling Moloney was outstanding, scoring 2-9.

For Cork, without the Mourneabbey contingent, the league was always about finding new players and there is every chance that that will be what materialises. Defeat can always be educational once the lessons are learned and they will have a chance to do that when they travel to take on Monaghan next weekend.

And finally, a word on UCC and their amazing Sigerson/Fitzgibbon double, with Saturday’s Fitz final win over Mary Immaculate College following the Sigerson triumph over St Mary’s on Wednesday.

Unsurprisingly, the last college to do the double was UCC in 1988 and all involved deserve huge praise, especially John Grainger, who has given his life and soul to GAA in the university.

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