WHATEVER happens at Cusack Park this Sunday, Cork will have another match to come.
Clare’s excellent start to the league puts them in pole position to finish in the top two of Division 2 South, with Mayo and Meath are already locked in to qualify from Division 2 North. Promotion this season is by virtue of a play-off victory in early June. A league final will only take place if both counties are not out on the opening weekend of championship.
In a similar fashion, relegation will be decided by cross-sectional games in each division. Down and Westmeath will be Cork’s opponents in that scenario.
When Cork beat Laois last Saturday evening, the assumption was Kildare would overcome Clare, meaning the clash in Ennis would be a straight shootout. However, the Banner were 1-13 to 0-13 victors, and have two wins to Cork and Kildare’s one apiece.
The scoring difference in the table currently reads Clare +10, Cork +4, Kildare +1, Laois -15. Cork were pretty woeful in the second half of their loss to Kildare in Thurles, but hitting the last five points could yet have a major bearing on the final placings.
Technically, if Laois enjoy a heavy win over Kildare and Clare blow Cork away, Mike Quirke’s side can still come second, as all bar Clare would finish on one win apiece. Highly unlikely, of course.
All Ronan McCarthy’s charges need to worry about is performing against Clare, which they have not always done lately. Colm Collins’ charges have repeatedly beaten the Rebels in the league and a McGrath Cup final in the modern era.
To be honest, while we’d love to see Cork back in Division 1 they could do with another campaign in Division 2.
Daniel O’Mahony is the latest graduate from the 2019 U20 All-Ireland-winning panel to catch the eye. Even against Kildare, he was tenacious in the tackle and, like Seán Meehan, comfortable in possession on the counter-attack.
You can never have too many good defenders in your panel, but it would be a huge boost for Cork if one of the 2019 forwards stepped up over the comings weeks. Cathail O’Mahony was to the fore in the 2020 Division 3 league, but injury ruled him out of the shock over Kerry and last weekend’s win over Laois too.
Damien Gore and Colm O’Callaghan have been given plenty of game-time too, but Gore missed the Kildare defeat and only recently returned to training. Blake Murphy made his debut off the bench in Portlaoise, but Mark Cronin hasn’t featured.
Realistically, Cork will lean heavily on the attacking prowess of Brian Hurley, Mark Collins, Ciarán Sheehan Ruairí Deane, and Luke Connolly this summer. Beyond that, the young guns will have to start firing.
It’s in that context, seven games in Division 2 next spring would suit Cork more than the Division 1 gauntlet.