West Cork contingent eager to nail down places in football squad

West Cork contingent eager to nail down places in football squad
Ruairí Deane of Cork in action against Gerald McSorley of Louth. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

WEST Cork footballers have featured prominently in new Cork senior manager Ronan McCarthy’s inter-county setup and will be eager to make an impression during the concluding rounds of the National League campaign.

Ronan McCarthy’s tenure as Cork senior football manager has gotten off to a rocky start with performances in all four of his side’s National League fixtures well below what the former Carbery Rangers county-winning coach would have expected.

There are mitigating factors; the Evening Echo’s Éamonn Murphy recently outlined how the absence of Nemo Rangers’ contingent has affected Cork’s line-up in the early part of the season. 

Add to that, Aidan Walsh, James Loughrey and Sean Powter’s on-going injury woes and it is a fair to say Cork have been missing at least six players that would have made a significant contribution in the league.

Worth remembering too that McCarthy and his backroom team are only at the beginning of three-year tenure so league results not going the Rebels’ way was a probability rather than a possibility especially with so many new and untried players involved.

Yet, lack of consistency or an ability to knit together a full 60-minute performance has dogged the new Cork manager’s chances of finding a settled line-up or building a cohesive defensive unit.

In the midst of Cork’s stop-start league campaign, players from the Carbery division’s clubs have taken the opportunity to show what they are capable of. Unsurprisingly, competition for places will intensify in the build-up to Cork’s Munster championship opener but between now and then there are plenty of West Cork players eager to further enhance their chances of a berth in Ronan McCarthy’s starting fifteen.

Heading into his final league outings, Cork’s manager has already had a look at three different goalkeepers; Mark White (Clonakilty), Ryan Price (O’Donovan Rossa) and Anthony Casey (Kiskeam).

White made his debut in the opening night defeat to Tipperary and retained the number one jersey for the trip to Down the following week. One of the young Clonakilty shot-stopper’s greatest strengths is his ability to find a Cork jersey from long-range kick-outs. Conceding three goals against Tipp was disappointing but keeping a clean sheet in his second outing should keep Mark White in the reckoning come championship.

Ronan McCarthy knows all about Ryan Price as the O’Donovan Rossa goalkeeper has already featured in both league and championship for his county. One of the few Cork players to perform well in the drab 2-11 to 0-10 win over Louth, Price currently looks the most likely to start in the Munster championship although Anthony Casey could yet be a possibility having also prevented Cavan from finding the net and performing proficiently on his debut.

Cork’s Michael McSweeney with Dara McVeety of Cavan. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Cork’s Michael McSweeney with Dara McVeety of Cavan. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Newcestown’s Michael McSweeney has featured in three of Ronan McCarthy’s first four league games, operating in the full-back line or as a sweeper. A baptism of fire against Tipperary’s experienced forward line saw McSweeney isolated on more than one occasion during Cork’s disappointing loss to Liam Kearns’ side.

Since then, the Newcestown defender has featured in a sweeping role against Down (to good effect) and recently in the defeat to Cavan (less so). 

There will be plenty of competition for places when injuries clear up and Nemo’s representatives return to the senior fold but Micheal McSweeney has done his chances no harm at all and should be involved in Cork’s final three league fixtures.

All Bantry Blues’ Ruairí Deane required from this year’s league campaign was an injury-free run of games and thankfully, the talented midfielder has completed all four fixtures to date. 

Picked in the half-forward line, more often than not Deane has found himself around the centre of the pitch dovetailing well with Ian Maguire or Cillian O’Hanlon. 

In an increasingly youthful looking line-up, Ruairí Deane’s experience could yet be vital to his new inter-county manager heading into the Munster championship.

Clonakilty’s Sean White has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Ronan McCarthy’s arrival as Cork senior football manager. Picked in all four of his county’s league games, brother of goalkeeper Mark, Sean has excelled on the half-forward line, regularly weighing in with scores and most importantly of all, linking midfield with attack.

0-2 against Tipperary, 0-2 against Down, 1-1 against Louth and 0-2 against Cavan underlines White’s ability to get his name on the scoreboard, irrespective of the quality of defence. The Clonakilty player’s consistency has been one of the big pluses of Ronan McCarthy’s early games in charge.

Mark Collins looks a certain starter for Cork when championship comes around, the only question being where best to position the Castlehaven player. 

In the full-forward line, Collins has already shown what he and Colm O’Neill could be capable of having combined for 1-10 in the away victory over Down in Newry. More used to starting on the 40 or in midfield for Castlehaven, Mark Collins already looks to be a more potent option for his county on the edge of the square.

The same applies to Carbery Rangers’ John O’Rourke who has featured intermittently in the early months of the new campaign. O’Rourke’s ball-carrying ability makes the West Cork native a natural fit in the half-forward line. 

Similar to Mark Collins, playing O’Rourke closer to the goal may yet prove a bigger benefit to Cork as evidenced by the Carbery player’s 0-2 when brought on against Cavan.

Michael Hurley (Castlehaven), Brian O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh) and Kevin O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh) have also been appeared during Cork’s league campaign and look likely to be involved in the inter-county setup come championship.

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