LOUTH'S thrashing at the hands of Dublin in the Leinster football final on Sunday has confirmed that Cork’s first game in the All-Ireland group stages will be away to the Wee County in a fortnight.
The 5-21 to 0-15 defeat will not have been a surprise for Mickey Harte’s men, as they wouldn’t really have believed they were likely to halt the Dublin juggernaut at Croke Park and deny them a 13th successive provincial crown. However, the manner of it may take some recovering from.
Cork will have had seven whole weeks to lick the wounds they received up in Cusack Park in Ennis in their Munster Championship exit against Clare, whereas Louth will only have two to get over the mauling they received from Dessie Farrell’s Dubs.
Given that it will probably be the game that decides which of Cork and Louth reach the knock-out stages of the championship, you would hope that John Cleary’s side have been using this time wisely.
Cork and Louth will, of course, be no strangers to each other as they clashed in Division 2 of the national football league up in Ardee on the 19th of March, with the Louth men winning that one on a scoreline of 1-10 to 0-10.
Louth had come from five down early on to secure the two points and finished a place ahead of Cork in 3rd position in the final league table, so they will have no fear of Cork.
Louth, who famously beat Cork back in the 1957 All-Ireland football final to win the most recent of their three All-Ireland crowns, failed to stick a goal past Stephen Cluxton on Sunday. They also did not raise a green flag in the extra-time semi-final triumph over Offaly, but prior to that game, they had managed to score at least one goal in eight games in a row this season (seven of their league games and their Leinster quarter-final against Westmeath when they bagged two).
Ryan Burns managed to put one past Micheál Aodh Martin up in Ardee, but Sam Mulroy, Ciarán Downey, Liam Jackson, Dan Corcoran, Craig Lennon, Tommy Durnin and Conor Grimes have also scored goals for Louth this year, which shows that they have the ability to get scores from all over the field, which makes them more difficult to pin down.
Dublin were able to limit them to just seven points from play over the course of 70-odd championship minutes, but the trusty boot of Mulroy knocked over the remaining eight points from frees.
That 15-point total would be in with a shout of winning most championship matches, and Louth will be expecting Cork to not have Dublin’s firepower when they lock horns.
Dublin had 12 different scorers and it is difficult to imagine Cork sharing the burden in such a manner.
In the 0-14 to 0-13 defeat to Clare Cork only had four scorers, with Steven Sherlock registering 10 and Sean Powter, Rory Maguire and Kevin O’Donovan getting one each. Quite simply, the attack must offer much more than that in the group stages if Cork are to progress.
Against Kildare and Limerick, and even Clare in the league encounter, they resembled promotion contenders, but when they’re not on their game they have a tendency to look very average.
The losses to Meath, Louth and the championship loss to Clare would be examples of this drop-off in form from game to game.
Cork fans will wonder which of these Cork sides will take to the pitch against Louth, the almost swashbuckling one that can play some really exciting attacking football, or the one that tends to sometimes revert into its shell.
Cork look like the ultimate confidence team, with them relying a lot on grabbing goals to get the tails up.
It might seem obvious, but it is not surprising to note that Cork’s best performances have come when they have had a real goal threat inside.
Even in the close defeat to Dublin, they looked extremely dangerous in this regard.
Mayo and Kerry are the other two counties in this qualifying group, and for that reason both Cork and Louth will be viewing each other as the most likely game they will win, which is why this is likely to be a real feisty affair.