Cork footballers will reach for the stars but even with Kevin Walsh on board it won't be easy

Cork footballers will reach for the stars but even with Kevin Walsh on board it won't be easy

Ruairí Deane is back with Cork this year. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

IF we are all perfectly honest with ourselves we will admit that, no matter how much we would like to make a case for Cork to win a football All-Ireland in 2023, it is incredibly unlikely, although that does not mean it can’t be a successful year for Cork football either.

Cork are currently widely available at odds of 100/1 for All-Ireland football glory, with nine counties – Kerry, Dublin, Galway, Mayo, Tyrone, Armagh, Derry, Donegal and Monaghan – all ranked as more likely lifters of Sam Maguire in 2023.

There won’t be too many on Leeside arguing that Cork should higher up this pecking order. Kildare and Roscommon are both available at the same odds as John Cleary’s side, with Meath next up at 150/1. Cork, at present, are very much in this category and are likely to be so for another few seasons.

Cork manager John Cleary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork manager John Cleary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

There’s always the hope that Cork could pull a Galway or a Derry, and jump from Division 2 side in the Spring to championship contenders come the Summer, but in reality, that is highly unlikely. If Cork had a player of the calibre of Shane Walsh then maybe, but right now there is no one quite at that level in the county.

Of course, Cork did manage to reach the last eight of the championship this year. A quarter-final appearance and survival in Division 2 of the league means that 2022 has to be deemed somewhat of a success. The Cork footballers certainly won’t have been getting any team of the year nominations for their efforts this year, but considering the injury issues the squad had to deal with, and the fact that manager Keith Ricken had to step away mid-season, it was a decent effort, and one that can be seen as taking one step forward, in the grand scheme of things. We’ll give them a solid B, all considering.

Cork never looked like winning that quarter-final against Dublin in Croke Park, losing by 0-21 to 0-10, although the 0-10 to 0-7 half time scoreline meant there was the briefest of hopes, but with John Cleary now firmly in place as manager, and with the squad potentially being significantly stronger due to the return of a good few injured players, as well as the recall of the likes of Thomas Clancy, Brian O’Driscoll and Ruairi Deane, then Cork can expect to be even more competitive in ’23.


One of the big unknowns in this respect is in terms of what former Galway manager Kevin Walsh can add to proceedings. The expectation is that he will help to make Cork become more resilient, more structured defensively, and basically will make Cork a tougher nut to crack, which would be a huge positive.

The other huge unknown that we may have to consider is whether Cork actually play for the Sam Maguire next year.

Right now, in December 2022, there is only one team guaranteed to be playing for Sam Maguire in 2023, and it is not Kerry, Dublin or Mayo, but little old Westmeath. 

They won this year’s Tailteann Cup, which gave them a guaranteed crack at the All-Ireland next year, and they will be joined by 15 other counties based on finishing positions in the national football league and who reaches the provincial finals.

To simplify the championship, the eight provincial finalists are guaranteed a place, with the final seven spots being handed to the highest finishers in the league. If a side double books (say Kerry reach the Munster final and finished second in the league) then their league spot goes to the next best finisher in the league, and so on.

So, Cork have two chances of getting into the All-Ireland proper. They will have a good idea of where they stand by the time they kick off their Munster Championship campaign against Clare, as their league campaign will have ended by then. You would expect that at least four or five of the Division 1 sides will reach their respective provincial deciders, meaning a top-half-of-the-table finish in Division 2 will probably see Cork get one of the top seven league spots, even from Division 2, but in any case they know that if they can beat Clare and then Limerick in the subsequent Munster semi-final then they will make the grade.

After that, they will be in bonus territory.

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