CORK can look positively ahead to the Munster championship on June 1 despite the obvious gloom of being relegated from Division 2, according to Castlehaven's Mark Collins.
The Rebels' improvement was evident in the closing games against Tipperary, Donegal and last weekend at the Athletic Grouds in Armagh, a trio of results which produced four points.
Cork still dropped a tier and will play in division 3 in 2020 for the first time in the county's history after losing out on the head-to-head with Clare, who survived because of their victory over Cork in Ennis.
“The last three performances have been streets apart from what we gave earlier in the league and we will look to build on that for the championship.
“They were definitely a step in the right direction, mixing it with a Super 8 team in Donegal. The game was level with time up.
“We went north against a good Armagh team, who have been improving in the last few years, and you have to take positives looking forwards to June,” he said.
Cork await the winners of the Tipp-Limerick game in Thurles on May 11 with Tipp odds-on favourites to set-up a repeat semi-final from last season at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on June 1.
“Naturally, it's very disappointing to go down, especially as we did our own job by winning up in Armagh. Ronan stressed that all week in the build-up to the game.
“We showed heart and determination to win it, too, because it was level with five minutes to go and we were playing into a strong wind. It was super to get the win at the end.
“Obviously, that was drained out of you when the other result from Thurles came in, but we can take positives from it.
“It's a young group and while it's very disappointing to go down to division 3, Cork not having been there before, we have to park it and look forward to the championship.
“I believe the confidence is rising in the squad. You really have to write the league off now because it's not going to affect how we play in the championship,” Collins commented.
Before that, Collins will lead out his Castlehaven colleagues in their quest for county senior football championship glory against last season's premier intermediate champions, Fermoy, in Brinny on Sunday week at 3.45.
It's part of a double-header with the Dohenys-St Nick's tie kicking off matters at 2pm.
Last season, the Haven were involved in some thrilling games, playing seven times in all, having played Duhallow on three occasions in an epic semi-final, and denied CIT after a replay following two more exciting encounters.
“It's always great to go back to the club. There's always a feel-good factor when you go down.
“The lads will have the usual slagging about not being seen in a while and I'm looking forward to getting ready for the first round of the championship against Fermoy.”
Mike O'Brien is the new Haven manager, having been in charge of Gabriel Rangers, when they won the junior county in 2016.
“He's a Castlehaven man through and through and is a fresh voice. He's a great man, a great clubman and I'm looking forward to working with him,” Collins concluded.