BOTH UCC and MTU Cork Campus face do-or-die Sigerson Cup round 2 games next week, when it will be all or nothing after disappointing defeats during the week.
Home advantage counted for little as College lost to last season’s runners-up UL by 2-7 to 0-10 in next-to-impossible conditions at the gale-lashed Mardyke while MTU went under to the most successful team in the competition, UCD, by 2-11 to 0-13 in more appealing weather.
The upshot of it all is UCC meet ATU Galway and their Bishopstown rivals face the league champions NUI Maynooth for the right to stay alive in the coveted competition.
Cork manager John Cleary took stock of the involvement of his inter-county contingent ahead of the McGrath Cup tie against Clare at 1.30pm on Sunday.
UCC had five players from the 26-strong Cork squad who were on duty for the big win over Kerry in the opening game of the season, Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty) and Daniel O’Mahony (Knocknagree) from the starting 15 and Shane Merritt (Mallow), Fionn Herlihy (Dohenys) and Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers) who were summoned from the bench.
Despite the obvious disappointment of losing the Munster derby, the Cork students have a formidable panel of players to select from and they will hope for better conditions in the first instance as well as knowing their next opponents are not in the same category as UL.
The Limerick side had three players from Cork clubs in their starting line-up, wing-back Darragh Cashman (Millstreet), an All-Ireland minor winner in 2019, half-forward Mark Lenahan (Buttevant) and full-forward Sean McDonnell (Mallow), a recent Cork U20.
ATU Galway lost to a strong TU Dublin outfit in their first game by 1-13 to 0-9 and they will need a significant improvement against College, who started brightly against UL, leading by 0-5 to 0-1 after the opening quarter, their points coming from five scorers.
Goals, though, were always going to be critical on such a wretched night and UL bagged the first of their pair within three minutes, when Paul Mathews netted for a 1-4 to 0-6 interval lead, an indication of how tight proceedings were on a night of intense endurance.
The second goal arrived seven minutes from the end after keeper Dylan Foley (Eire Og) saved Paul Walsh’s penalty only for the same player to usher in the rebound and that goal separated the sides at the finish.
UCC had Briain Murphy (Nemo Rangers) at centre-back following his successful outings at number 3 for his club in their county title success though a thumb injury ruled him out of the Munster Club quarter-final defeat by Clonmel Commercials.
Lady luck certainly didn’t smile on MTU in the draw because they were bracketed in with a right couple of heavyweights in their section, the defending champions NUIG and Maynooth, who snatched the league title from UCD’s grasp at the death in the final.
Despite the impressive scoring return of 0-10 from Ryan O’Donovan (Barryroe), another link to the minor triumph of 2019, MTU also conceded two goals in the 0-13 to 2-11 defeat by the Dublin students on Tuesday night.
The Cork side included captain Rory Maguire (Castlehaven) and Sean Meehan (Kiskeam) from the McGrath Cup team against Kerry while Tommy Walsh (Kanturk) was a second-half substitute.
It left MTU wondering about the result of the NUIG-Maynooth tie from Wednesday and the holders’ emphatic 3-10 to 1-6 left no room for argument with Galway star Tomo Culhane leading the way with 1-4.
It’s another big ask for MTU though Maynooth are sure to be scratching their heads at such a big defeat, when coming into the game as league champions. That will be an interesting encounter.
While UCC and MTU ponder their next moves, another Cork player will have strong designs on being a possible Sigerson winner next month after Conor Corbett (Clyda Rovers) was part of a very impressive DCU display in their 4-15 to 1-7 victory over ATU Donegal.
Corbett, the 2019 minor captain, only returned from a cruciate knee injury in the latter half of 2022, contributed 1-2 less than a week after making his senior debut against Kerry and looks set for an extended run in the Sigerson.