Cork footballers will find out on Sunday whether it's the All-Ireland or the Tailteann Cup

It's all eyes on Croke Park for the Leinster semi-finals with fans rooting for Louth and Dublin victories
Cork footballers will find out on Sunday whether it's the All-Ireland or the Tailteann Cup

Cork manager John Cleary will know on Sunday whether it's the All-Irleland or Tailteann Cup this summer. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

CORK footballers will learn their fate about whether it’s the motorway or the by-roads they will travel late Sunday afternoon.

By then the outcome of the second games in the semi-finals in Ulster and Leinster should be known and the results will indicate either the All-Ireland or Tailteann Cup for John Cleary’s side.

After mixed outcomes over the weekend, Cork are bracing themselves for games to go their predicted lines and not produce any more shocks like Meath’s loss to Offaly which has consigned Colm O’Rourke’s charges to the B grade championship.

For Cork, it will be all eyes on the double-header at Croke Park, starting with Louth-Offaly at 1.45 and followed by Dublin-Kildare at 4pm.

Having been strong advocates of all that concerns Armagh last weekend, Rebel fans are now getting behind Louth and Dublin to come up with anticipated victories which would be enough to guarantee Cork’s place among the 16 counties contesting the race for the Sam Maguire Cup.

And even if there is another major upset, Armagh can bail Cork out of their plight by defeating Down in the Ulster semi-final in Clones at 4pm that day, too.

The previous day’s other semi-final involving champions Derry and Monaghan, sensational conquerors of Tyrone in the quarter-finals, will have no direct bearing on Cork’s position.

Basically, Cork will survive once two from Louth, Dublin and Armagh do the business and on the law of averages it would come as the most bizarre afternoon in football’s history if that didn’t happen.

Will Kildare beat Dublin? NO. Will Down beat Armagh? NO. Will Offaly beat Louth? NO, though it’s possible but it shouldn’t impact on Cork’s summer either way.

Only two places remain to be filled before the four pots of four will be identified though they are clearly taking shape.

Cork will be among the fourth seeds along with current occupants, Donegal and last year’s Tailteann Cup winners Westmeath while Kildare are on the biggest sweat of all.

They are unlikely to stop the Dublin juggernaut, especially after the holders posted a whopping 4-30 in their 27-point rout of Laois in Portlaoise, leaving the Lillywhites banking on Louth and Armagh victories to prevent them dropping to the Tailteann Cup.

Cork’s first game will be away to a team from pot two, one of the beaten provincial finalists with Kerry-Clare meeting in Munster and Galway-Sligo colliding in Connacht.

You suspect it will be a Dublin-Louth shoot-out in Leinster and maybe Derry-Armagh up north though you certainly wouldn’t dismiss Monaghan’s prospects.

Whatever about the composition of pots one and two, it’s pot three that will be the most fascinating because it contains some big hitters like Mayo, Tyrone and Roscommon with the loser of Derry-Monaghan joining them.

Could you imagine a group of Kerry, Armagh, Mayo and Cork with three to qualify for the knock-out phase, the winners advancing to the All-Ireland quarter-finals and the second and third placed counties meeting in a preliminary quarter-final?

That’s way down the road at this juncture for Cork must feel like they’re involved in a game of Snakes and Ladders without getting a chance to roll the dice.

For some team climbing the ladder there’s an inverse movement of someone else sliding the down one of those pesky snakes and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Yet, for the footballers of Clare and Sligo there are no such issues as they qualified to meet All-Ireland champions Kerry and the runners-up Galway in their respective provincial finals after contrasting performances.

The Banner just about got over the line in their 1-16 to 0-16 win over neighbours Limerick, who gave them a right scare, but Sligo sent New York packing with a comfortable 2-16 to 0-6 success at home.

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