Cork v Derry: Minor boss Michael O’Brien ready for new test as team picked

Kieran McCarthy comes in at corner-back in place of the injured Tim O'Brien
Cork v Derry: Minor boss Michael O’Brien ready for new test as team picked

Cork's Brian Hayes celebrates scoring a goal against Kerry. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

SATURDAY: All-Ireland MFC quarter-final: Cork v Derry, Portlaoise, 6pm.

THE Munster champions meet the Ulster runners-up for a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals in a game that is full of intrigue.

Cork bounced back spectacularly from their disappointing opening night showing against Kerry, who enjoyed a 14-point victory, with impressive wins over Tipperary and Kerry again in the final.

That remarkable 3-11 to 0-9 turned the tables in a breath-taking manner though it did end the campaign for corner-back Tim O’Brien (Nemo Rangers), who suffered a shoulder injury in the second half and was replaced by Kieran McCarthy (Carrigaline).

Cork’s total that memorable Páirc Uí Rinn evening is also that of leading scorer Bryan Hayes (Nemo Rangers), who claimed 2-3 in the game on top of his 1-5 against Tipp and 0-3 in the first Kerry outing.

Olan O’Donovan (Ibane Gaels) has 0-9 to his name with Ed Myers (Naomh Abán) on 1-6 and the speedy Alan O’Connell (Kilshannig) on 2-2.

Cork have sampled all the emotions attached to winning and losing championship games as manager Michael O’Brien (Ballincollig) pointed out.

“The players have felt big lows and big highs so they know what they want to feel tomorrow evening and that’s another big high,” he said.

“They are back down to earth after the great win over Kerry and fully focused for another big challenge."

Cork's Colm Gillespie and Jack Clifford of Kerry. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork's Colm Gillespie and Jack Clifford of Kerry. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

A new venue, changeable weather and an Ulster side with all the characteristics of the way the game is played up north await Cork’s youngsters.

It will be a different test, no doubt about that because Derry are a big, physical side, who were very unlucky in the Ulster final and could easily have won it, scoring 16 points, as they did in the semi-final. They’re well able to score.

“Yet, if we can bring the same intensity and work-rate as we did in the Munster final, we will be rightly there.”

It’s a short turnaround from that game which is ideal for all everyone involved.

“We had an internal game for those players who didn’t play against Kerry, just to keep everyone on their toes.

“It was only 10 days ago which didn’t leave much time anyway and that’s good because you’re going from one game to another.

“We’ve had two good performances in-a-row and simply looking for a third now. Momentum is definitely on our side,” O’Brien added.

Football in Derry is clearly on the rise, having been crowned All-Ireland minor champions in 2020 with a last-gasp 2-12 to 1-14 win over Kerry in a final played last year due to Covid.

This season’s Ulster campaign began ominously with a 5-10 to 2-6 thumping of Armagh at their Athletic Grounds, when full-forward Ciaran Chambers netted twice and there was one apiece for midfielder Dara McPeake, centre-forward Ryan McNicholl, the captain, and right corner-forward Eoin Higgins.

Derry were on their travels again at the next stage, popping over the road to play Donegal and they got among the goals once more, McNicholl taking full advantage of a mis-directed kick-out after only four minutes followed by a 42nd minute penalty by Odhran Murphy.

Having been seven points clear at the interval, Derry’s second goal swept them 2-11 to 1-4 in front, but they wouldn’t score again and the victory came at a huge price, too.

McNicholl, one of their key players, suffered a season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury and his absence is a huge blow to the Ulster side.

While they scored seven goals in their opening two games, Derry haven’t managed to add to their tally, overcoming Cavan by 0-16 to 0-11 in the semi-final, supplying eight different scorers in the process.

Chambers led the way with 0-4, two from frees, Higgins contributing 0-3, two from frees, as well, with Ruairi Forbes nailing three from play to steer Derry to a sixth provincial final in eight years.

However, Tyrone had their measure in the decider, blitzing the defence to score four goals in a 4-8 to 0-16 triumph to set-up a quarter-final against Kerry in the curtain-raiser at 4pm.

Ironically, it was Derry’s joint-highest points’ tally of the campaign with seven players getting on the scoresheet led by seven frees from Higgins.

CORK (Minors v Derry): 

J Woods (Valley Rovers); M O’Sullivan (Bantry Blues), C Molloy (Nemo Rangers), K McCarthy (Carrigaline); D O’Donovan (Bishopstown), G Daly (Mallow), A Cullinane (Clonakilty); C Geary (Kilshannig), C Gillespie (Aghabullogue), captain; M Kelleher (Mallow), E Myers (Naomh Abán), A O’Connell (Kilshannig); B Hayes (Nemo Rangers), G Kearney (Kinsale), O O’Donovan (Ibane Gaels).

Subs: E O’Flynn (Douglas), S O’Connell (Castleaven), J Burke (Douglas), C Clifford (Éire Óg), N O’Leary (Douglas), S Coakley (do), D Gough (Clonakilty), A O’Sullivan (Aghabullogue), B O’Sullivan (Adrigole).

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