CORK footballers are paying the price for their ill-advised bonding session in Youghal back in January.
Instead of having one home game and two away matches in the newly constructed Division 2 South, Ronan McCarthy’s charges must hit the road for all three games.
Cork should have been warming to the prospect of beginning their promotion bid with a visit from Kildare to Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday, May 15.
But, Croke Park’s punishment of forfeiting a home game means the game is likely to be played in Thurles, where the teams have met in the All-Ireland qualifiers in recent years.
Cork’s second game is a week later, when they travel up the motorway to face Laois at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise before wrapping up their condensed campaign against Clare in Cusack Park, Ennis, on Sunday, May 30.
After that Cork will know their fate of whether they’re still on the promotion trail or fending off relegation to division 3, from whence they came at the end of last season’s competition.
Cork need to fill one of the top two positions to contest a semi-final against the two sides emerging from Division 2 North, Meath, Westmeath, Down and Mayo.
Effectively, Cork have four games to string together a promotion bid and an important return to division 1 in 2022.
You’d imagine their prospects would be enhanced by the new format this year, but not enjoying any home comforts counter-acts that aspect even if Cork’s home record is nothing to shout out about.
And neither is their list of results against their upcoming opponents, starting with the Lillywhites, who finished third in the second tier last season.
In recent years, Cork have played Kildare most, four times in all and they’ve only won once, losing the other three.
Their last encounter ended with a 1-10 to 0-10 Kildare victory in Pairc Ui Rinn at the start of the 2019 campaign.
Two years before Kildare again prevailed, winning by 1-14 to 1-8 in Newbridge, while Cork’s lone success came in the 2014 division 1 season with a 0-16 to 1-12 triumph.
The year before Kildare collected the points in a 2-10 to 1-9 win at Pairc Ui Rinn.
All told, Cork would appear to have it all to do to begin their campaign on a winning note, particularly as Kildare performed so well in the same division in 2020.
Cork’s record against Clare is probably more dismal because they’ve lost the last three league meetings between the counties.
For three successive seasons, Banner boss Colm Collins has lorded over the Rebels, savouring an unprecedented run of victories from 2017.
That year Cork were well beaten by 2-11 to 0-9 in Ennis and while their next meeting took place at Pairc Ui Rinn on the night of St Patrick’s Day, when Nemo Rangers were involved in the All-Ireland club final at Croker, Clare still pulled off a 0-14 to 0-12 victory.
The worst was still to come, however, because their most recent engagement ended with Clare thumping Cork by nine points, emerging triumphant on a 3-13 to 1-10 score line in Ennis, a couple of years ago.
Cork suffered a humbling relegation to division 3 that season with Clare hanging on to their status for another 12 months.
And the last Sunday of next month promises to be another interesting chapter in the Cork-Clare saga with much to play for either way.
Cork have played Laois only twice in recent times, winning both in 2012 and 2009, when Leeside football was in a much different place.
Nine years Cork ended up division 1 champions and the midland county relegated with Cork winning comfortably in their early March tie at Pairc Ui Rinn, 2-14 to 0-10.
In 2009, Cork registered a double-scores win over Laois in Portlaoise, 0-18 to 0-9, with new selector John Hayes from Carbery Rangers kicking a couple of points that evening.
Like Cork, All-Ireland champions Dublin, Down and Monaghan also have to forfeit a home game because of Covid training breaches.
The Dubs were due to host Kerry but that game seems destined for Portlaoise, behind closed doors.