SATURDAY: Littlewoods Ireland League Division 1: Waterford v Cork, Walsh Park, 2pm.
CORK head to Walsh Park tomorrow confident of topping their group after already defeating Tipperary in the Littlewoods Ireland National Division 1 league.
With Waterford suffering a 2-16 to 0-11 defeat to Tipp last Saturday, it’s a must win game for them but Cork will go into the game as favourites, despite trialling several players.
With the Cork ladies’ footballers also out this weekend against All-Ireland champions Dublin, Paudie Murray is expected to release his dual players.
Izzy O’Regan, Cliona Dooley, Isobel Sheehan, Saoirse McCarthy, and Cliona Healy came off the bench against Tipp and it’s expected that some will be handed a starting position here.
There are other substitutes which Murray will want to give game time to but with the competition shortened due to Covid and just three teams per group we’re almost at knockout stage so it will be steady as she goes. Hannah O’Leary, Ellen Murphy, Emma Murphy, and Aoife O’Neill are other players that need that time.
St Finbarr’s Aisling Egan at full-back held her own for her first outing against Tipp. She’ll need time to develop at inter-county level. Ciara O’Sullivan at half-forward works hard and again is a player where time is needed.
While it’s early days and Tipperary were a poor reflection of what they were last year Cork still impressed with their own intent in Páirc Ui Chaoimh. They looked hungry, were surprisingly very fit, for three-quarters of the game anyway, and importantly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
They alternated between a short passing game to attempting scores from distance and while that was one area which was somewhat off, with several shots landing into the keepers’ hands, the idea was right, and the distance will come.
It was Cork’s first competitive outing since last November. With the quality of Walsh Park, despite missing the dual players, we can expect more of the same.
It’s important that Cork don’t overdo the passing, which can happen when you play weaker teams. This needs to be another opportunity to play it fast, open the shoulders and drive for scores.
With Katrina Mackey now operating in the middle of the park, we need to see players other than Amy O’Connor hit the net.
Fiona Keating struck one against Tipp and hit three in Courcey Rovers' senior championship final last year, so she isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and we need to enhance that.
Derek Lyons is the new senior manager of Waterford for 2021 after the departure of Fergal O’Brien and his management team before Christmas after just one year in charge.
That turnaround of management is never good and certainly based on how Waterford performed against Tipperary last weekend they need more time to settle to get close to where they were last October where they lost narrowly to Tipp in the All-Ireland quarter final, 1-12 to 0-10.
Last weekend the defeat was 11 points. Lyons from Dungarvan comes with considerable intercounty hurling experience having previously managed the Deise’s minor and U-21 hurling teams.
Joining him in his backroom team is hurling coach John Burns, former Waterford senior goalkeeper Iggy O’Regan of Mount Sion, Catherine O’Donnell and Jimmy and David Payne from Peak Fitness, in charge of strength and conditioning, who have worked with several inter-county hurling teams in recent years.
Waterford were slow to get moving last weekend. They improved in the second half, but the damage had been done as they trailed by 14 points at the break.
Waterford only managed three points in that opening period whereas Tipp were clinical, the forwards capitalising on outfield dominance and the resultant quality and quantity of ball.
McIntyre got them off to the best possible start with a dazzling goal after 16 seconds.
The second goal arrived in the second minute of first-half injury time when Keeley Corbett Barrett failed to pick up the sliotar on the run and McGrath pounced to gather quickly, giving Brianna O’Regan no chance from close range.
With Devane splitting the posts nine times, that made it 2-11 to 0-3 at half-time.
Derek Lyons’ charges were better after the resumption, Lorraine Bray offering stout resistance, but his counterpart Bill Mullaney made some changes and Waterford couldn’t get close.
A strong performance tomorrow, a good win and Cork enter the quarter final.
They’ll be happy with that. Game time is key as the team develops.