USING normal criteria you’d expect Cork to be marooned behind the 8-ball by having to play all three Division 2 South league games away from their Pairc Ui Chaoimh base.
But, these are very different times as we’re all experiencing and the absence of crowds at games has thrown any kind of logic out the window.
Statistically, Cork have a more impressive series of results on the road than they have at either Páirc Uí Chaoimh or alternatively Pairc Ui Rinn.
This will be manager Ronan McCarthy’s fourth league campaign at the helm, having spent two seasons in Division 2 before dropping a level last year, but bouncing straight back up with an unblemished record.
Under his stewardship, Cork played 21 times in the league, 10 of those away from home, and their record of seven wins, a draw and just two defeats is impressive by anyone’s yardstick.
There is an asterisk attached because their last game in 2020, away to Longford in a dead-rubber, didn’t happen because the home side conceded a walk-over on the basis of it being too close to a Leinster championship game.
McCarthy’s first league campaign in 2018 showed a clear imbalance between results at home and on their travels.
Cork played three times away, winning twice against Down and Meath and losing their concluding fixture away to Roscommon by three points, 0-17 to 1-11.
Cork finished sixth on six points, avoiding relegation, which fell Down and Louth’s way.
The following season, Cork lost all three games at home to Kildare, Meath and Donegal en route to slipping to Division 3, having won two and drawn one of their four away games.
After opening with a 1-5 to 0-8 draw away to Fermanagh, Cork overcame Tipperary by 1-12 to 0-12 and raised eyebrows with their 3-9 to 1-14 success up in Armagh, a result, though, which couldn’t prevent them slipping out of the section.
Tipp joined Cork in the drop zone with Clare avoiding it because of their 3-13 to 1-10 victory over Cork in Ennis after they finished level on five points each.
Cork went into the 2020 campaign under serious pressure to mount a promotion challenge and they duly fulfilled their task by winning all seven games, four at home and three on the road.
Yet, to suggest Cork had matters all their own way in those games would be to deflect from the reality that they were hanging on in their one-point wins over Tipp and Derry, who came with a goal-rush to cause palpitations in the camp.
But, they still signed off in the grand manner, scoring a swashbuckling five goals in the concluding game against Louth, who managed to tally 0-16.
So, is losing home advantage going to impact on Cork’s chances of winning promotion back to Division 1?
Selector Sean Hayes was decisive in his answer during a media briefing, held remotely, during the week.
“An honest answer is ‘no’ because there’s nobody going to the matches anyway,” he said.
Pitches, as we say, are a white line and goalposts and having no supporters doesn’t make a huge difference.
“Obviously, we’d prefer to play it at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but we’re well used to Thurles, having had some good battles with Tipperary over the years.
“The pitch itself won’t make any difference. It’s about the game,” Hayes added.
Kildare lag behind Cork and Mayo, who play in Division 2 North, in terms of the promotion betting, which is surprising given they finished third last season, two points behind Roscommon and Armagh.
“Outside of Dublin you could say Kildare and Meath are probably the next best in Leinster,” Hayes commented.
“They had a bad Leinster semi-final last season, conceding five goals in the second half and they’ll probably change their style for Saturday.
“We have to be ready for what they throw up at us, but we have to concentrate on ourselves, get the best team out there and play the way we want to play.”
History favours Kildare, who won three of the last four league encounters with Cork’s most recent success coming in the Division 1 meeting in 2014, a 0-16 to 1-12 victory.