CORK consolidated their division 2 status for next season, which will has an even more competitive feel to it compared to the truncated version just finished.
Presumably, the 2022 edition will return to normality in terms of eight teams in the four divisions, meaning seven games with two promoted and two more relegated at the end of it all.
Should life return to pre-pandemic then Cork can look forward to games against Clare and Down again from this season as well facing promoted Offaly and Derry just as they did in the 2020 division 3 campaign.
But, it’s the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Galway, Roscommon and Meath which illustrates just competitive division 2 is going to be once again.
The Connacht pair slipped out of division 1 in contrasting fashion at the weekend, Galway coughing up a lead against Monaghan, who caught the Westerners at the death in extra-time.
Roscommon went under heavily to Armagh so return to the top tier, something that has been a noticeable yo-yo trend, promoted one year and relegated the following season.
Having hosted Down, Derry and Offaly in their last meetings, it’s expected Cork will have to travel next season, but Roscommon and Clare are due a visit to Pairc Ui Chaoimh, leaving the Meath and Galway fixtures to be sorted.
No matter what way you look at it, the 2022 league is set to be ultra competitive, just like the rest of the divisions, too.
Who could have predicted that Tipperary and Cavan, the reigning Munster and Ulster champions respectively, would start the defence of their titles as division 4 teams?
It’s some fall from grace following last winter’s heroics at opposite ends of the country, but is a further illustration of the strength of the league.
Cork’s next competitive outing is on July 10 against the winners of the Waterford-Limerick Munster championship tie on Saturday week in Dungarvan.
Limerick, who put a good showing in losing the division 3 promotion play-off to a hotly-fancied Derry, are expected to win and have Cork as visitors to the Gaelic Grounds for a Saturday afternoon throw-in.
Waterford were also in action at the weekend, but couldn’t take advantage of playing Antrim at the Fraher Field in the Division 4 promotion play-off as the visitors won with a bit to spare.
Cork will rest weary limbs and bones before gearing up for the championship.
“We will give the players a break for a few days because it will be the only opportunity we’ll have to do so,” said McCarthy.
“We will probably come back in on Thursday, but what you’ll find is it will be gentle enough for a week or so and then we’ll build up nicely to either Limerick or Waterford.
“Yet, it’s all going to come very quickly. That’s the nature of it now, but my over-riding emotion is that we will be in great shape coming into the championship.”
That’s based on the quick recovery powers of the many players suffering niggling strains which seem to have affected nearly every team this year.
Cork clearly need to resolve their obvious issues in defence with the concession of so many big scores like Westmeath’s 0-25 at the weekend and Clare’s 1-18 in the previous outing.
Getting players like Sean Powter, Daniel O’Mahony, Liam O’Donovan and Paul Ring back to full fitness will help in terms of personnel and the shape of the defence, too.
Cork have an abundance of scoring forwards, but the main priority now is shoring up things at the back.
The 2022 divisions are: Division 1: Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone, Donegal, Armagh, Monaghan, Mayo, Kildare.
Division 2: Cork, Clare, Meath, Down, Offaly, Roscommon, Galway, Derry.
Division 3: Limerick, Fermanagh, Wicklow, Longford, Louth, Antrim, Westmeath, Laois.
Division 4: Tipperary, Cavan, Waterford, Carlow, Wexford, Sligo, Leitrim, London.