Competition in Division 2 will be a handful for McCarthy's new-look Cork football squad

Competition in Division 2 will be a handful for McCarthy's new-look Cork football squad
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

IT'S hard to argue with Clare manager Colm Collins's assertions that division 2 in the national football league, which starts the weekend after next, is a veritable minefield.

The Banner are in their second season in the section, having defeated Cork for the first time in 20 years last year, and the Munster pair are joined by a third county from the province, Tipperary, who won promotion last year.

The trio have Leinster duo, Meath and Louth, for company as well as Down and Cavan from Ulster and Roscommon, ensuring a nice geographical spread for all.

Clare have Cavan as visitors to Cusack Park, Ennis, for their opening game while Cork host Tipperary in the first inter-county football game at the resplendent Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday week at 5pm with both counties aiming to make winning starts.

Collins believes it's a wide open league with huge uncertainty about those likely to contend for promotion to the top flight and those hoping to avoid being sucked into a relegation dog-fight.

“Quite easily you can see any of the teams either going up or going down,” he said after Cork's McGrath Cup win.

“It looks very even and have no doubt it's going to be tough. The key thing from a management point of view is to take it one game at a time.

“We're totally focused on the Cavan game, not even thinking past that. We will approach every game the same way.

“I think it's going to be very interesting and, hopefully, there will be a lot of good football in it and a lot of good preparation for the championship,” Collins added.

Like his Cork counterpart, Ronan McCarthy, the Clare manager is a big supporter of the McGrath Cup, despite being mugged by a late Stephen Sherlock goal near the end.

“Overall, I think the competition has served us well even if we have a number of things to brush up on.

“I think it's very important in these pre-season competitions to give a run out to players, who wouldn't normally be in the frame.

“There's nothing like seeing players come up against inter-county opposition, especially teams like Cork.

“We tried a good few players in both games, but, a bit like Cork, our focus is on the 27th for the first league game.” 

One of the more interesting aspects about the final was the ability of both full-forward lines to cause major problems in possession.

For Sherlock, Mark Collins and Cathal Vaughan at one end, you could read Eimhin Courtney, Keelan Sexton and Conor Finucance at the other.

Between the lot, they accounted for 4-16 of the 6-25 scored and showed the benefits of experimenting with team line-ups.

“I thought two of our forwards, Courtney and Finucane, again looked very impressive and carried on their good form from the Waterford game.

“The pair only need a sniff of a chance to put it away. It really was excellent stuff from them.

“I thought if we could get the ball into them enough times we would cause damage.

“I'd say we have half a dozen more options now for the Cavan game. Last year it was an issue and we were all talking about it, but we do have options this year.

“It's important to have fellows coming off the bench who can help you. That's encouraging and, all in all, the McGrath Cup has been very worthwhile.” 

Clare had only one defender, Gordon Kelly, on view from the league game which the Banner won by 2-11 to 0-9 in Ennis last season.

Captain Cathal O'Connor was a second survivor at midfield while goal-scorer, Sexton, was a third at full-forward.

Meanwhile, UCC contest the Higher Education Division 1 football league final against UL in Glantane Boys National School tonight at 7.30.

It's an ideal opportunity for both to fine-tune their Sigerson Cup preparations. UCC are away to the winners of the Maynooth-UCD preliminary round tie. UL meet CIT.

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