Cork aim to stop Clare's four-in-a-row in Ennis showdown on Sunday

It's D-Day in the national football league with Cork bidding to win a place in the Division 2 semi-finals and a shot at promotion to the top tier
Cork aim to stop Clare's four-in-a-row in Ennis showdown on Sunday

Mark Collins in action against Conall Ó hAiniféin  during the 2019 Allianz Football League at Cusack Park in Ennis. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

CORK will have to buck recent history against Clare in their attempts to finish in the top two in Division 2 South of the National Football League.

Cusack Park in Ennis hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds because Clare won there in 2017 and 2019, scoring five goals in the process to Cork’s lone effort.

And when you factor in another Banner triumph in between in 2018, a two-point win at Páirc Uí Rinn, it means Clare are going for a fourth consecutive league victory in the concluding game of the three-match series on Sunday at 1.45pm.

In the 2019 edition, Clare struck early and Cork spent the rest of the game trying to reel them in, unsuccessfully as it proved, the home side striding to an impressive 3-13 to 1-10 success.

Cork conceded goals in the first and fifth minutes to David Tubridy, who finished with 1-7, and Conall Ó hAinifin, and those scores separated the sides at the interval, Clare leading by 2-6 to 0-6.

Ian Maguire did manage to pull a goal back during the second half, but Clare were always in control and a third goal, scored by Kieran Malone, late in the game was the icing on the cake for the home side.

Cork are likely to have a half-a-dozen survivors from the starting team that day in their team when it is made public tonight.

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Kevin O’Donovan, Kevin Flahive and Mattie Taylor are set to be in defence, Maguire at midfield, Ruairí Deane, Mark Collins and Luke Connolly up front.

Clare manager Colm Collins will probably have around the same number in his starting 15, including full-back Cillian Brennan, centre-back Cian O’Dea, midfielder Darragh Bohannon, and David Tubridy and Keelan Sexton in attack.

Yet, the nature of the modern game, particularly with an increase in the number of substitutes to seven, is that players will be held in reserve until summoned at the appropriate time.

The teams in 2019 were: 

CORK: M White; K O’Donovan, K Flahive, C Dennehy; J Loughrey, S Cronin, M Taylor; I Maguire, R O’Toole; T Clancy (Fermoy), M Collins, R Deane; S Sherlock, L Connolly, M Hurley.

CLARE: P de Loughrey; K Hartnett, C Brennan, G Kelly; D Ryan, A Fitzgerald, C Ó hAinifin; G Brennan, D Bohannon; C O’Dea, J Malone, D Masterson; C Finucane, K Sexton, D Tubridy.

Clare’s opening victory in the set of three came via the 2-11 to 0-9 triumph in 2017 and it was their first success against Cork in 20 years.

Even though Cork lost by eight points, it was one of those days, when precious little went right for the visitors, who had a goal disallowed in controversial circumstances at a critical stage during the second half.

Jamie Malone and O’Dea were Clare’s goal scorers that afternoon and while Cork had the benefit of the wind after the change of ends, Clare outscored them by 0-4 to 0-1 in the decisive third quarter.

The 2018 game was played on St Patrick’s Day at Páirc Uí Rinn, when Nemo Rangers were also involved in an All-Ireland club final at Croke Park, making their Cork contingent unavailable.

It was still tight until the very end with the sides level at 0-12 apiece until late points from Jamie Malone and Tubridy, who both contributed 0-3, got Clare over the line.

In other games, Division 1 North is very close with Donegal on three points, one more than Armagh and Tyrone with Monaghan on one.

All four can still make the semi-finals or being dragged into the relegation mix.

In Division 1 South, Kerry and Dublin are level on three points, one in front of Galway with pointless Roscommon heading into a relegation decider.

Kerry should complete their business at Dr Hyde Park while Galway must overcome the Dubs in Tuam to join Kerry in the last-four.

In Division 2 North, Mayo and Meath have already qualified, making their tie in Castlebar more a dead rubber than anything significant. Westmeath and Down will be in the relegation play-off.

In Division 3 South, Tipperary have to defeat leaders Offaly and Limerick must win away to Wicklow while Waterford will progress in Division 4 South if Carlow deny Wexford.

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