A PLACE in Monday’s second-round draw against one of the beaten provincial finalists is the prize on offer here for two teams who’ll fancy their chances of being in the hat.
Cork must make home advantage count against a Louth side, coached by the legendary figure, Mickey Harte of Tyrone fame, that will travel confident of extending their season.
The Wee County have momentum, irrespective of the 16-point drubbing dished out by Kildare in the Leinster quarter-final, because they’ve been an upward trajectory all season.
It took off effectively with a 1-14 to 1-12 away win over Limerick in round 3 of Division 3, a game played at UL.
That prompted a six-game winning streak, which culminated in Louth topping the table and earning a place in the final against the Shannonsiders at Croke Park.
By a strange co-incidence, Louth scored the same 1-14 and managed to keep a clean sheet in restricting the Munster side to a dozen points.
The only goal in what had been a tight, hard-hitting encounter until then, typified Louth’s style, defender Dan Corcoran turning over possession in the half-back for Louth to counter-attack swiftly.
Ciaran Byrne, scorer of 0-4 from play, fed Liam Jackson, who slipped in the game-turning score.
Louth, then, earned their first championship win under Harte’s guidance with a 5-10 to 0-10 drubbing of Carlow, when Sam Mulroy, the division’s leading scorer with 3-51, helped himself to 2-5 with Conor Grimes, Byrne and Tommy Durnin also netting.
There was a reality check in the 2-22 to 0-12 Kildare defeat though Louth had cut an eight-point half-time deficit to five before a goal from a penalty halted their progress.
Cork have a settled side even though keeper Micheál Aodh Martin is struggling with a groin injury and may not make it while there’s a vacancy in the full-back line due to Kevin Flahive’s unfortunate cruciate.
How Cork use Sean Powter will be interesting because he was the sweeper against Kerry, a role unlikely to be deployed on this occasion, leaving options in defence or leading the attack.
Otherwise, Cork will be along familiar lines with newcomers John Cooper and Rory Maguire settled in the half-back line and Colm O’Callaghan partnering Ian Maguire at midfield.
The inside line of Steven Sherlock, captain Brian Hurley and Cathail O’Mahony is laced with scoring potential and how Louth deal with this major threat will be observed closely.
Restricting all three is almost next to impossible and yet they’re only as effective as the supply lines from further out the field.
Given a decent service they should point Cork to victory.