Cork v Offaly: Footballers await their day of destiny in Tullamore on Sunday

The team to play Offaly in the concluding Division 2 relegation decider will be announced tomorrow night
Cork v Offaly: Footballers await their day of destiny in Tullamore on Sunday

Cian Donohue of Offaly in action against Cathail O'Mahony of Cork when the counties met in the 2020 league in Division 3. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: NFL Division 2: Offaly v Cork, O'Moore Park, Tullamore, 2pm.

THE day of reckoning is almost at hand for Cork footballers as they complete their league programme with their seventh and final game.

It has been a rocky journey with the spectre of relegation hanging over every venue since early losses away to Roscommon and Derry with a draw against Clare sandwiched in between.

For a long time, it appeared relegation to Division 3 and all its ramifications for the championship was almost inevitable, but last week's much-needed win over Down has suddenly altered the landscape dramatically.

From a seemingly hopeless position, Cork find themselves in a near-ideal situation of having their destiny in their own hands, something that looked remote a few weeks back.

It's quite simple really, avoid defeat and Cork's season will be saved, but defeat would condemn to the third strand next season along with Down, who fell through the trap door after losing by 1-16 to 1-12 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

That win should inject a shot of confidence into Keith Ricken's charges, especially after closing out the game impressively after Down threatened a major comeback from being four adrift to just one entering the finishing stretch only for Cork to come again with a succession of points.

You'd imagine the starting 15 won't alter too much though Kieran Histon's early departure with an ankle injury is likely to rule him out for the left corner-back role.

The Nemo Rangers defender filled the void left by Tadhg Corkery's injury against Meath, but whether the Cill na Martra player returns in time remains to be seen.

The introduction of Kanturk's Tommy Walsh meant he became the 33rd player used by Cork in the league and the 15th debutant, according to the estimates.

Mattie Taylor was considered a major doubt, having also limped out of the action in Navan, but he duly rocked up to his customary left half-back position and contributed enormously to the victory, including scoring an important point to make it 1-14 to 1-11 after 68 minutes.

To date Cork have used six players at centre-back with Castlehaven's Rory Maguire becoming the newest member of the number six club joining John Cooper, Sean Powter, Billy Hennessy, Sean Meehan and Histon.

Another positive for Cork was the performance of Colm O'Callaghan at midfield alongside Ian Maguire and the Éire Óg player chipped in with a couple of key points, too, in either half.

Cork's 1-16 return was their second highest in the competition-the 2-17 against promoted Galway remains the best and the most surprising element was that captain Brian Hurley was held scoreless.

That's almost a rarity for the Castlehaven star, but it was just one of those games in which Hurley couldn't get on the ball no matter how hard he tried.

Yet, the scoring threat is there for all to observe with Steven Sherlock top-scoring with 1-7 and a rejuvenated Cathail O'Mahony adding 0-3, helping to ease the burden on the skipper's shoulders.

Cork manager Keith Ricken is expected to sit out Sunday's game due to illess.
Cork manager Keith Ricken is expected to sit out Sunday's game due to illess.

Offaly, who were promoted from Division 3 last season, when they won an All-Ireland U20 title, too, must win to stay up because although they've three points like Cork, their scoring difference is inferior.

Conceding 2-18 to 14-man Roscommon at home last weekend will be a huge concern for a management which has Tomás Ó Sé on board this season and the former Kerry great knows all about Cork.

Offaly lost to Clare, Derry and Galway, despite scoring 3-10 in that last defeat, but rallied to draw with Meath and overcome Down before hitting the rocks against the Rossies.

They've only managed one other goal-against Meath-and just two players scored more than once last time out, the McNamees, Niall, who started, and Ruairi, who came on for the second half.

Their starting team against Roscommon included two players from the U20s last year, wing-back Rory Egan and midfielder Cathal O'Donough while Cathal Flynn joined the attack from the bench.

Cork will have to cope with a vociferous home crowd, who'll try to influence Fermanagh referee Niall Cullen, particularly in those 50-50 calls, which could affect the outcome.

Still, Cork have the ability to complete the task for a happy trip back to Leeside.

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