TWO in a row.
Bet you didn’t think that term would apply to the Cork footballers.
Ok, a little poetic licence is being used but for the second successive week I will acknowledge the achievements of Keith Ricken’s side.
Yes, the happenings in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday may have ticked the box for drama, but Sunday in Tullamore was probably higher up the richter scale. Avoiding relegation should always trump league semi-final victories!
On the way to the Offaly venue on Sunday morning, a quick visit to a Cork city hotel and at reception, I spotted personnel from some sporting team. Sports gear is now big business and without displaying the nosey side of my existence, it was the London senior football team.
Obviously, they were on their way home after being defeated by Tipperary the previous night. The thought crossed my mind ‘forthcoming events casting their shadow’. Surely not. I departed quickly.
On arrival in O’Connor Park, the rumour boys on tickets, informed us that only 500 had purchased online. Good news as a large home crowd would make a difference coming down the home straight.
By throw-in, it was obvious that a serious purchasing campaign must have taken place in the hours leading up to the game. Not a good omen if we were in for a tight finish.
Rather than heading down the sorrowful mysteries in relation to the Cork football supporters, it was pleasant to note that a number did travel and were they treated to some entertainment.
A word of praise too for the dedicated mentors, and team members of the Ballinora U12 football and hurling teams. Earlier on Sunday morning they played challenge games against a team from Ballinamere GAA club, after which they attended proceedings in Tullamore.
They made their presence felt and I would think that the experience will remain with them for a while.
They were entertaining, personable and friendly in equal terms. Who knows, they may have left Tullamore with a few new heroes to guide them on their sporting journey!
Now, I will not endeavour to downplay the body of work required before Cork win another football All-Star. That said if we go back to the beginning of this league journey, my observation was: forget promotion, just avoid relegation.
I think it was in the defeat to Meath that Colm O’Callaghan caught the eye. Suffice to say he didn’t have a whole pile of companions. Against Down, he stepped up to the plate once again.
From the throw-in on Sunday, he cut through the middle took a pass and fisted over. Nearly 90 minutes later, with Offaly trailing by a point and it being in the fifth and final minute of added time, they launched a long ball: goal or nothing.
Ian Maguire, who for the Down game fielded a few late ones in the Cork defensive zone, was now absent courtesy of a black card. The big leader was gone. The ball was dropping.
Offaly have got late goals in the past as we all know. O’Callaghan rose, fetched, and the final whistle sounded.
It was fitting that the Éire Óg man rhymed the first with the last act. He had a fine outing.
We all lost it, because for that moment we floated on a rare but significant Cork football cloud.
John O’Rourke has been a peripheral operator at times during his Cork career. Back to the Meath game and I reckon he came on and off on two or three occasions as a temporary sub. Each time, he did something positive.
He was rewarded with a starting jersey against Down; the foot pass for Steven Sherlock’s goal was just one of his many significant contributions.
For the Tullamore do-or-die experience, he landed two points while his seemingly telepathic understanding with Brian Hurley was a major plus. He can bask in the role he played in Cork staying up and by the way so too can the Castlehaven-born captain.
Can Mighty Mattie be used to describe Mallow’s Matthew Taylor? I am open to correction here, but he is one of the few players, if not the only one, who wore the same numbered jersey throughout the campaign. Not only that but more or less played in the same position.
He won several possessions on Sunday but his point in the 57th minute when Cork’s scoring machine was in downtime was crucial. It came after Offaly had scored five of the previous six and had drawn level for the first time. The score provided hope and inspiration.
Next, Cork’s Allianz player of the campaign has to be Steven Sherlock. Despite having an impressive campaign with St Finbarr’s in their successful championship journey, the whisperers reminded us of his previous inter-county career: not good enough.
Maybe that was the case before. This year, work-ethic, scoring, and positive body language earns him the gong. On Sunday, Cork had scored 1-6 prior to Steven raising a flag, he landed the next seven points and finished with 0-9.
Another in the pound for pound category, was Kevin O’Donovan. Aside from the penalty concession, I witnessed him on a number of occasions fetching over his head in precarious defensive positions.
Not only that, he was involved in several other outfield moves. He too has had a fine spring journey.
Hope the London boys got back safe and sound!
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