THE beauty of Cork’s division 2 relegation decider against Westmeath at Páirc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow at 2pm is that their fate is in their own hands.
Unlike the concluding South section game against Clare in Ennis, Cork won’t require any outside assistance in preserving their status for the 2022 league.
While Cork won two of their three games, against Laois and Clare and lost the opener to Kildare, Westmeath tasted defeat in all three matches in the North section.
And while those on the outside might chuckle that it’s only Westmeath and Cork should win, it’s not quite as simple as just showing up.
“If we don’t have the right mindset going into this one we could be in trouble,” cautioned coach Ronan McCarthy.
“Westmeath have been very unlucky because they performed well in a very competitive section which had the two teams relegated from division 1 at the end of last season.
“They had to contend with both Mayo and Meath and to be fair they only lost to Meath by a point in Navan, having been leading by four with 10 minutes to go.
“After 71 minutes, Westmeath were only a point down to Mayo and lost by just a point to Down.
“That’s the nature of Division 2. There are very fine lines in operation and it will be the same again on Saturday.”
McCarthy points to Cork’s results in Divisions 2 and 3 as proof.
“Look at our record over the last four years since I’ve been in charge of the team and we certainly can’t take any team for granted.
“We’ve no right to take anyone lightly, but what we do know is that if we perform well and to our ability we can be competitive against nearly all teams.
“That’s what we will try and do, bring a performance and hopefully the result will follow.”
Cork spent 2020 in the third tier, winning all seven games to bounce back straight away, but defeat would send them down once more.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the world that some people might think, but from the point of view of the development of the team, it’s certainly not what we want to do.
“Yet, we’ve no right or entitlement to be in Division 2 and we’ve to earn our spot.”
Cork lost out on the promotion play-off on scoring difference, undone chiefly by a couple of quick-fire goals against Kildare.
“It’s disappointing, of course, and we’re responsible for what happens to ourselves, but I thought we were a small bit unfortunate. Just take a look at the table with three teams on four points.
“It’s fair enough to lose on scoring difference over seven games, but it’s a very narrow window in only three.
“Ultimately we have to look at ourselves and that 15-minute period against Kildare which did all the damage and proved costly for us.
It’s all on a knife-edge. If we win, it will be three wins from four and that’s a positive, reflecting that we’re going in the right direction.
“If you look back to 2018 and 2019, when we were in Division 2, the maximum we got was six points from seven matches. If we win, it has been a good league going into the championship.”
The key is Cork performing to a high-level consistency throughout the game.
“I believe we are a match for all teams, no matter what the level, once we play well and consistently.”
Cork won’t have Sean Powter, Daniel O’Mahony, or Ciarán Sheehan due to injury.
“The minute anyone now has a hamstring issue or a soft tissue injury you’re looking at a couple of weeks.
“Sean and Daniel are straightforward enough, but we need a bit more time on Ciarán, who visited a consultant this week. It’s looking positive, but he needs to be monitored.”
McCarthy also said Michael Hurley, Maurice Shanley, and Kevin Crowley were close to full training.
“Michael was very unlucky with the hamstring injury he sustained in the challenge game against Dublin because it was an impact in the back of his knee which caused the problem.”
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