CORK’S All-Ireland SFC Round 1 Qualifier against Louth at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday week at 2pm will be the first championship game since 2007.
Fifteen years ago the biggest and smallest counties in the country also squared up in a qualifying encounter with Cork shading a close affair by 0-16 to 0-14 at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Under Billy Morgan’s guidance, Cork had to produce a storming second half after trailing 0-9 to 0-8 at the interval and then falling three adrift on the resumption.
But, Cork found an extra gear as James Masters guided them to victory, the Rebels scoring seven of the last nine points to earn a quarter-final spot.
When they eventually got their running game together, Cork moved clear of a Louth side, who had stunned Kildare the previous week and were playing their seventh game of the summer.
Points from Donncha O’Connor, Pearse O’Neill and Kevin MacMahon restored parity before Nicholas Murphy gained a grip at midfield and Masters and O’Connor’s free-taking punished Louth fouls.
Coached by Eamonn McEneaney, the Wee County refused to admit defeat and reduced the margin to that dreaded two points, but Cork survived.
In the first half, they had started well, moving 0-6 to 0-3 clear after scoring five points from play only for Louth, who had also overcome Limerick, kicked the next five scores, as Cork went 18 minutes without adding to their tally.
The introduction of Shane Lennon paid immediate dividends for Louth as he kicked three unanswered points early in the second half to extend their lead by that number only for Cork to finish strongly.
Louth have another Ulster man at the helm with former Tyrone All-Ireland winning boss, Mickey Harte, plotting Cork’s downfall.
It’s the first of the four R1 Qualifiers and Cork return ‘home’ to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which was unavailable for their Munster semi-final with Kerry due to the Ed Sheerin concerts, forcing a minor detour to Pairc Ui Rinn.
The draw for the new-look championship, which is confined to Divisions 1 and 2 counties only, yielded a straightforward knockout between teams from the same divisions.
Louth, who will be in Division 2 along with Cork and relegated Dublin and Kildare next season, qualified by earning promotion from Division 3, when topping the table and accounting for Limerick in the final.
The second game is an appetising affair between last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo and Monaghan in Castlebar, starting at 4pm, with live broadcasting on Sky Sports Arena. The Cork-Louth game is only available on GAAGO.
The Connacht side, who only came to life late on in their championship defeat by Galway, hope to get their season back on track, but will find Monaghan more than troublesome opponents even with home advantage.
It bucks a trend for Mayo, whose previous qualifying campaigns started against sides well down the pecking order, Division 3 Down in 2019, Limerick, who were in the bottom tier the year before, and Derry, who were relegated from Division 2 in 2017.
Monaghan also have to pick it because they were very poor in losing to Derry, one of the in-form sides anywhere in the championship and in an Ulster final against Donegal at the weekend.
Clare host Meath in the third game at Cusack Park at 5pm and this is a repeat of their league game in round 6, when the Leinster county won narrowly by 0-10 to 0-9, also in Ennis.
The pair eventually finished on six points with Meath, despite having an inferior scoring difference, taking fourth spot because of winning the head-to-head game.
Both disappointed in their respective provincial championships, Clare bowing out to Limerick in an historic penalty shoot-out while Meath never raised a gallop in the thumping 1-27 to 1-14 defeat by the Dubs.
Clare and Meath also met in championship in 2019 with the Royals again prevailing by the minimum margin.
The fourth game is a tantalising affair between Armagh and All-Ireland champions Tyrone at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday week at 1.30pm.
There’s no love lost between this pair as evident in their league meeting back in February when Tyrone had four players dismissed and Armagh one.
Whoever gets the nod to referee this one better steel himself for a busy lunchtime engagement.