It’s clear Cork lack physique at the back, missing players of genuine stature

It’s clear Cork lack physique at the back, missing players of genuine stature
Mark Collins of Cork in action against Conall Ó hAiniféin of Clare. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

WHAT is it about mid-west venues, Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds and Clare’s Cusack Park in Ennis, which continue to haunt Cork’s hurlers and footballers respectively?

Last year’s All-Ireland U21 hurling final was another case in point of Cork struggling on Limerick’s patch, just like many senior teams of old down the generations.

And the footballers’ inept display in the 3-12 to 1-10 defeat by Clare in Banner territory on Sunday followed on from a similar performance two years ago, when Cork also lost.

Add in a two-point home defeat at Páirc Uí Rinn in 2018 and it doesn’t take rocket science to appreciate the rankings ladder behind Kerry is as volatile as the financial markets (anyone with a wobbly pension fund will understand).

Lob in Tipperary’s totally unexpected 3-9 to 0-13 win over previously unbeaten Donegal in Thurles and positions two, three and four in Munster will continue to fluctuate before the main event of the summer.

Cork prop up the division 2 table after three rounds of fixtures, with four more to come and there’s sure to be more jostling up and down the listings.

Only three points separate Meath, Fermanagh and Donegal, who top the table on four points, from Cork on the solitary point picked up from the 1-5 to 0-8 draw away to Fermanagh.

Meath’s scoring difference of +8 leaves them at the head of affairs followed by Fermanagh on +2 with Donegal on 0.

Clare’s +6 has them next in line in front of Tipperary and Kildare who can’t be separated on +1. These three teams have three points each.

Armagh are just ahead of Cork on two points with a scoring difference of minus 6 with the Rebels on minus 12.

Manager Ronan McCarthy insisted there would be no deviation from the plan of trying to be as tight as possible in the wake of conceding 3-12.

Two of Clare’s goals came in the opening five minutes against the wind and the other arrived in the seventh and final minute of injury-time.

It was a jolt to the system, which worked well enough in restricting Fermanagh to 0-8 and Kildare to 1-10.

“We’re not going to go away from what we’re doing. We’ll try and keep it going and we’ve two weeks to get it right for the Meath game,” he said.

It’s clear Cork lack physique at the back, missing players of genuine stature like Clonakilty’s Tom Clancy, who was selected at centre-back for the Fermanagh game, but was injured in training and has yet to feature.

The Meath game at either Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday week is supposed to earmark the return from injury of Sean Powter, who didn’t play a full game in all of 2018.

He suffered a serious hamstring injury in the opening game against Tipp, but is expected to play some part against Meath.

Clon’s Liam O’Donovan also suffered an injury after coming on for Jim Loughrey and is rated touch and go.

Despite the obvious gloom, Clare boss Colm Collins offered Cork some hope with his take on the league.

“This division is absolutely unreal. There’s very little between all the teams in it. This was a serious game for us and sure the next game against Kildare is the same thing.

“It’s cup final after cup final after cup final. Bring it on. It’s great. The way we’re approaching the league hasn’t changed one bit.

“There’s only one game bothering us and that’s the next game against Kildare. We’ll see what we can get out of this game.

“It would be insane to look at it any other way. You can’t look any further than you’re next game.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself. The minute you do you’ll be in for a kick up the behind,” he said.

Like the majority in the attendance of 1,182, Collins reckoned Clare looked unlikely to cough up the chance to clinch their first win after such a blistering start.

“Those two goals put the game to bed early on and for an older citizen like myself that’s good to see.

“Defensively we felt we were a bit porous last season and we’ve worked a lot on that with Brian Carson,” Collins added.

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