Paudie Palmer: Grounds are empty but Cork hurling fans excited by rookies

Shane Barrett, Alan Connolly and co have fit in seamlessly at senior level
Paudie Palmer: Grounds are empty but Cork hurling fans excited by rookies

Shane Barrett of Cork is tackled by Aonghus Clarke of Westmeath. The Blarney club man looks the part at the top level. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE Allianz NHL has reached what could be termed the halfway point.

It is unlikely that we will have an outright winner. The relegation issues were more or less sorted prior to the first clash of the ash.

Therefore, is it opportune to ask, as to what indicators have presented in relation to the possibility of the homing of Liam MacCarthy in the southern capital?

If calculated grades were introduced, without reference to past year performances, we might feel justified in stocking a few pallets and a few sods of turf in preparation for Rebel bonfires. Cork have more or less ticked quite a few of the expectation boxes.

They appear to realise that defending is not the sole prerogative of numbers one to nine but that those, who may have been employed for flag activity in the past must now have a serious modicum of blue-collar activity on their CVs.

Recently, Kieran Kingston mentioned that the luxury of including a player whose sole contribution involved the intermittent scoring of a few spectacular points was past tense. I wonder who he had in mind when he arrived at that conclusion?

One of the bar stool suggestions, when a county team isn’t performing to the experts' liking, is a call to introduce young blood.

The Cork management has certainly given youth its chance and players such as Daire Connery, Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly have linked up with other youthful ones with a few more caps such as Robert Downey, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman.

In a few systems-failure defeats over the past few years, the absence of quality finishers was mentioned on more than one occasion.

Not saying, that it has to be the case, but could Shane Kingston be the Cork version of Limerick’s Shane Dowling?

Another positive involves the removal of the need for Patrick Horgan to perform the bulk of the flag-raising events, I realise it was only Westmeath, but 11 individual Cork players made scoring contributions.

WATER-CARRIER

This night last week, one of Tipperary’s most committed hard-working forwards, Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher sustained a second serious injury, this time damaging his Achilles tendon which could very well finish his intercounty career. In the Cork set-up, is it reasonable to suggest that Maher’s role is carried out by Luke Meade?

Another midterm observation is the strategy of ensuring that the green flag personnel get an adequate exercise regime.

In Cork’s three games they have landed 14 goals, four of them from Blackrock’s Alan Connolly.

I suppose a modicum of realism will inform us that the silage season has yet to swing into top gear, and pronouncement relating to Liam MacCarthy could be a tad immature. 

Cork goalkeeper Ger Collins and defender Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork goalkeeper Ger Collins and defender Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Still, it’s fair to say, that Cork are doing alright.

BOUNCING BACK

Credit to the county senior football team who recovered from the Kildare capitulation to defeat Laois and keeping us believing.

The win, taken together with Clare’s defeat of Kildare, means that Cork’s promotion drive is still breathing but the relegation variant is still hovering ever so close.

The positives seven days on from the Kildare defeat again centred around improvements in the three areas of disappointment from that result.

In situations akin to this you may have to insert the caveat, are we comparing like with like? Translated, are Laois better, worse, or very similar to the Jack O’Connor-coached outfit?

Anyway, Cork’s defence — in particular the two young Duhallow men, Daniel O’Mahony and Sean Meehan — together with Seanie Powter ensured that the All-Star selectors weren’t checking out the details of the Laois forward six.

At midfield, Ian Maguire displayed a marked improvement from the Kildare game but I did notice that Ronan McCarthy mentioned that the captain was troubled by an injury issue.

Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Daniel O'Reilly of Laois. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Daniel O'Reilly of Laois. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

In the forward division, Ciaran Sheehan did well, and undoubtedly the goals by the West Cork men Sean White and Ruairí Deane were key.

The vagaries of this league in terms of promotion and relegation are beyond belief. 

I would suggest that there is no other league on the planet where scoring-difference could decide, if a team gets to play in a promotion playoff or the same team to play in a relegation equivalent.

Right now, if you visited your local turf accountant, you would get much shorter odds on the Rebels taking on either Down or Westmeath to decide who goes down rather than the odds, you would be quoted on them facing Mayo or Meath to go up.

To be sure of avoiding the slán leat route, Cork must travel to Ennis on Sunday for a 1.45pm encounter with Clare and defeat the home side by at least four points.

That is some ask against a team that has a really good league and championship record against Cork at Cusack Park and who have already defeated both Laois and Kildare.

It is also a huge game for Clare, because they will realise that their only championship outing will be a trip to Killarney.

If they draw with or defeat the rebels, they will be only one victory away from playing Division 1 football.

Wouldn’t it be an awesome achievement for them?

However, if Cork do man-marking jobs on Eoin Cleary, David Tubridy and Keenan Sexton, then a promotion play-off comes back into the realms of possibility.

They carry our best wishes.

  • Contact: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com / Twitter: @paudiep

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