Cork hoping to improve by degrees in Masters football competition

A Rebel side will take part in over-40s inter-county football for the first time this weekend
Cork hoping to improve by degrees in Masters football competition

The Cork Masters football team (wearing Rochestown jerseys for a practice match) that will face Dublin on Saturday.

History will be made in Glenville on Saturday as a Cork team competes in the Gaelic Masters Association All-Ireland Championship for the first time.

The newly convened side takes on Dublin at 2.30pm in the over-40s competition, with all support welcome. The PRO of the Cork side is John O'Connor, who also doubles up as a selector alongside secretary Rob Hanrahan while Mark O'Sullivan is manager and county GDA Colm Crowley is also involved.

The initial target is not of instant success, but instead just getting the project off the ground.

“It’s about participation for us,” O'Connor says.

“It grew out of the Social GAA – it was always easy to get numbers for hurling, but the football was kind of dying, so it was about getting fellas interested in it and carrying that on.

“We’ve had about 20 training every time, which is good for fellas our age, with kids and work and what have you but fellas are very dedicated.

“The Masters is going with years – up in Donegal, for example, they have four teams that feed into the county team – and it’ll take us a couple of years to get established but we’ll get there.

“At the moment, we just want to get going and give lads an outlet. It’s a bit of craic for us and gives the lads the chance to wear the Cork jersey as well. We’ve no notions going into it!”

While Covid naturally impacted upon preparations early in the year, there is a real keenness among those involved, so much so that applications outnumbered available spots.

“We limited our panel to 30,” O'Connor says, “and we have ten or 12 on the waiting list.

“We were over-subscribed but, for the first year, we wanted to keep it tight and next year we’ll see where the land lies and what have you.

“The insurance didn’t kick in until the middle of July, so we couldn’t start training until then. We wanted to make sure that we had the lads that were committed and we have, in fairness.

“We’ve been training at Rochestown’s pitch twice a week, they’ve been very good to us.”

“You have to be over 40,” he says, “and we’ve a spread from 40 to 60.

“There’s a good geographical spread too, from Urhan up to Macroom and over to Glenville, Carraig na bhFear, Killavullen – in total, I think there are about 20 clubs involved, which is great.”

And the team will have at least four games to gel, which O'Connor welcomes.

“There are four in the group,” he says.

“We have Dublin first, then we have Clare away in a fortnight and two weeks after that we’re at home to Kildare.

“There are four groups and the way it works is that the top team in each group goes into the Dr Michael Loftus Cup – he’s the president of the Masters Association – and then there’s a shield and a plate for the teams that come second and third.

“For this year, then, they’re going to run to another competition for the sides that finish fourth, so everyone will be guaranteed a fourth game at worst or five at best.

“Clare and Kildare were in the final of the plate two years ago, the last time it was run, so it’s a tough group.”

Not least the fact that Dublin are a seasoned side, so O'Connor knows it will be a baptism of fire.

“There was nothing last year," he says, "but they won it in 2018 and they were in the final in 2019.

"Ray Cosgrove togged out for them two years ago, among others, and as far as I know he’s togging out for them this Saturday as well.

“They’re serious about winning the whole competition out. Two years ago, they had John Kavanagh, Conor McGregor’s coach, in training them.

“We’ll be up against it, but the key thing is to get established.”

Cork Masters football squad: Alan Bourke, Conor McCarthy, Dan Croke, David O'Leary, Derek Smyth, Diarmuid Holland, Donal Cashman, Fergal Kelleher, Finbarr O'Riordan, Flor Harrington, Ger McSweeney, James Baldwin, James Twohig, JJ Kearney, John Ahern, John Lawler, John O'Brien, John O'Connor, Mark O'Sullivan, Michael Finn, Paul Hartnett, Peadar Ó Laoghaire, Robert Hanrahan, Robert Oldham, Tadg Sheehan, Tadhg Lyons, Anthony O'Connor, Rob Stuart, Don McDonald, PJ O'Halloran, John Doherty, Matt Sullivan, John Paul O'Driscoll.

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