Cork v Derry: Footballers' focus is Munster opener away to Clare on Easter Sunday

Rebels can't get promoted to Division 1 so there is room to experiment in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday
Cork v Derry: Footballers' focus is Munster opener away to Clare on Easter Sunday

Sean Meehan in action against Shane McGuigan of Derry during last season's Allianz Football League Division 2 match in Owenbeg. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: NFL Division 2 Cork v Derry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.

CORK wrap up a mixed league by attempting to deny the Ulster champions a perfect 100% record in the final game of seven at headquarters.

Derry have already secured promotion to the top tier next season for the first time since 2015 and last week’s decisive 0-14 to 0-4 victory over relegated Clare extended their unbeaten run to 10 since the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Galway last season.

Cork are in no man’s land to a degree because they’re not involved in the promotion chase and are safe from relegation, currently fourth, two points behind Louth, and one ahead of Meath, who travel to play Kildare.

Both managers, John Cleary and Rory Gallagher will have championship dates in mind when assembling their starting 15s and bench occupiers for a game which has very little at stake apart from pride and going into their respective provincial campaigns with a confidence booster.

It’s Cork’s last outing before travelling to play Clare in the Munster quarter-final on Easter Sunday and in that regard there’ll be no gambling with players’ fitness.

Tomorrow lunchtime’s team announcement is set to emphasise their thinking on the best approach to ensuring everyone’s available to face the Banner while also selecting a strong enough team is in place to face a stern test from the northern county.

Derry had the luxury of a feet-up week in recognition of a league final the weekend after next against either Dublin or Louth who clash at Croke Park tomorrow.

Barring a completely unexpected result, it’s sure to be a Dublin repeat of a couple of weeks ago, when Derry inflicted a first and only defeat of the season on the Dubs, who will surely relish a second opportunity, especially at Croker.

After that, Derry enter the Ulster championship at the quarter-final stage on April 15, when travelling to play Fermanagh with a mouth-watering semi-final looming against the winners of the Tyrone-Monaghan tie.

It’s why Gallagher is likely to be in experimental mode and looking to his squad for starting roles though with stiff competition for places Cork are still likely to meet quality opponents, whose approach won’t change from the norm.

Colm O'Callaghan jumps highest to make a clean catch against Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Colm O'Callaghan jumps highest to make a clean catch against Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

Having got a taste of Louth’s ultra-defensive first way of playing last week in Ardee, Cork are bracing themselves for another helping of trying to poke holes in a heavily fortified visiting defence while anticipating speedy counter-attacks at the same time.

There’ll be familiar figures absent from the Cork line-up. Captain Brian Hurley and wing-back Mattie Taylor won’t be risked after missing the Louth game during which full-back Daniel O’Mahony was shown a red card, meaning an automatic ban.

The expectation is that joint captain Sean Meehan will wear the number three jersey and fill the same role as he did for the second half a week ago, leaving the left half-back slot up for grabs with Cian Kiely the leading candidate in that regard.

Sean Powter’s foot injury will have been assessed during the week and a call made on whether he should start in his usual centre-forward slot, again with the Clare game uppermost in management’s thought process.


Cork might use the opportunity to give players on the fringe of the first 15 a rare start, especially up top where Mark Cronin and Fionn Herlihy have played limited roles until now.

Cork coughed up a glut of goal-scoring chances against Louth after netting half-a-dozen in their most recent home outing against Limerick, an aspect which commands immediate attention.

“We’re addressing it in training and practicising and obviously we will have to go back and do it again,” Cleary said.

At least, we are creating the chances which is a good thing, but we need to be putting them away.

“I’ve no doubt it will happen because we have good forwards, who are well able to do it at club level, but it’s a case of being composed and going back to the training field and practicising.” 

Yet, patience will be the key word once again, when facing a side like Derry, whose defensive prowess was evident once again in restricting Clare to a miserly 0-4 a week ago.

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