Cork footballers will be on the road a lot to the north in next year’s league

John Cleary's side are joined by four Ulster and three Leinster teams with Navan set to be the nearest away venue
Cork footballers will be on the road a lot to the north in next year’s league

Rival managers Rory Gallagher and John Cleary at the final whistle in the Cork-Derry Division 2 game at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. INPHO/Ken Sutton.

CORK will have four Ulster counties and three from Leinster in next season’s Division 2, which will be just as competitive and possibly even more challenging in terms of the promotion race.

While Derry move up to the top tier along with Dublin, passing them out coming down are Donegal and Armagh while Fermanagh and Cavan travel in the opposite direction from Division 3.

John Cleary’s side rub shoulders once again with Louth, Kildare and Meath as relegated Clare and Limerick contemplate football in the third tier in 2024.

On the basis Cork enjoyed having four games at home this season-Meath, Dublin, Limerick and Derry-it’s likely they’ll have to hit the road that many times next season with Navan set to be their nearest away venue.

Louth and Kildare look poised to make the trip south, leaving Cork with just one more home game against one of the Ulster quartet resulting in three trips north, adding to the degree of difficulty in attempting to rejoin Division 1.

Cork wrapped up their schedule with that battling 1-14 each draw with already promoted Derry at Pairc Ui Chaoimh at the weekend to finish on seven points, one adrift of Louth in third and six and five behind Derry and Dublin respectively.

Kildare ended in fifth spot following their victory over Meath, who could only add one more point after an impressive start, when collecting maximum returns against Cork and Clare, scoring seven goals in the process.

Clare were a point behind Kildare on four with Limerick propping up the table on a solitary point and looking like a side in a mini-crisis awaiting the outcome of Clare-Cork in the Munster championship.

Cleary described Cork’s league as a mixed bag, three wins, three defeats and a draw, scoring 14 goals in the process, but missing plenty more chances.

“We experienced very defensive football. Louth and Derry play defensive football and they will hit you on the break,” he said.

“Then we had other types of games, as well. We learned an awful lot from it and I hope the lads will drive on now. The way Derry played in particular was textbook.

“We were floundering and couldn’t get at them. That is where we need to get to move forward. It is a journey that we are on and we’ll see if we can get there.

“We are trying to implement a game plan and things like that. We are not there yet. We are not at the level we would like to be.

“You don’t automatically come from nearly being relegated last year and being beaten by 10 and 12 points by Kerry and Dublin respectively to being up there. It is a slow burner.

“Derry and Louth are two and three years on the go. We are looking at them. You can go in with all the notions and preconceived ideas that this is Cork or whatever, but you still have to go through your apprenticeship.

“You still got to play the top teams and when you are under pressure in the game you have to figure out a way to stay in it. Then, when you get a chance, you must punish them.

“The big thing we took from the league is the amount of goalscoring opportunities we missed. Hopefully, we can work on that and turn it around. The players are good enough to do that,” Cleary insisted.

2024 league: 

Division 1: Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Tyrone, Kerry, Monaghan, Derry, Dublin.

Division 2: Armagh, Donegal, Louth, Cork, Kildare, Meath, Fermanagh, Cavan.

Division 3: Clare, Limerick, Down, Westmeath, Offaly, Antrim, Sligo, Laois.

Division 4: Longford, Tipperary, Wicklow, Leitrim, Wexford, Carlow, Waterford, London.

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