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Cork can get their All-Ireland campaign back on track against familiar rivals Louth 

June 20th, 2024 8:45 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Cork can get their All-Ireland campaign back on track against familiar rivals Louth  Image
Cork’s Conor Corbett in action against Louth in a recent meeting between the counties.

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THIS is the rivalry we didn’t know we needed – Cork and Louth footballers will clash for the fifth time in just two years across league and championship when the counties collide on Sunday.

So far, it’s a 2-2 draw. Whereas Louth have won both Division 2 league meetings (2-9 to 0-13 in 2024 and 1-10 to 0-10 in 2023, both in Ardree), Cork have won both championship meetings – the Rebels won 2-12 to 2-8 in a 2022 All-Ireland qualifier at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and then 1-19 to 1-17 in the 2023 All-Ireland group stage tie in Navan. The biggest winning margin in those games was four points in 2022, and we’ve had two two-point wins and one three-point victory, so little to separate the counties.

John Cleary’s men will be confident of making it a hat-trick of championship wins against Louth when they two meet in an All-Ireland SFC preliminary quarter-final in Monaghan (Grattan Park, Inniskeen) on Sunday (3pm throw-in, live on GAAGO). 

Considering Cork’s options in the draw, as a third place time from the group stage, were Galway, Mayo or Louth, the latter is the pick of the bunch given the familiarity between the two and also the latter’s recent results – an opening group win against Meath was followed by a draw with Monaghan before a 2-21 to 1-10 trimming against Kerry last weekend. There’s a good argument to be made, too, that Louth would have preferred Cork in the draw as well. Both will feel they have realistic chances of advancing to the All-Ireland quarter-finals the following weekend.

Central to Cork’s hopes will be the availability of captain Brian Hurley who missed the defeat to Tyrone with a hamstring injury. In the aftermath of last weekend’s loss, John Cleary reported: ‘It’s 50-50, we’ll be giving him every opportunity and we’ll see during the week.’ Hurley is the talisman of this team, the leader. There are new gunslingers on the scene – the emergence of Chris Óg Jones, Conor Corbett, Cathail O’Mahony – but the seasoned Castlehaven campaigner remains the figure who can set and demand high standards. 

Cork captain Brian Hurley missed the Tyrone defeat through injury.


The Cork attack needs Hurley too, because even though he hasn’t scored a goal in this championship, he can produce a moment of magic and that’s just what the Rebels might need on Sunday given how close recent games with Louth have been. It’s obvious at this stage that goals are key to Cork’s chances – they are the difference-makers when attempting to take down one of the top teams. Scored three goals against Donegal and won. Scored none against Tyrone and lost. Scored one against Kerry and lost. John Cleary has addressed Cork’s wastefulness in front of goal in post-match media briefings more times than he’d like to, but the Rebels’ inability to take their goal chances is a constant theme.

‘We should have been more up at half time and we weren’t – we missed scores and it came back to bite us,’ Cleary said after the loss to Tyrone. The hope is Cork can take their goal chances on Sunday, and that will be enough to get the train back on track. It’s also important that Cork continue to beat teams of a similar standard. The two losses in the last nine games have come against two Division 1 counties, Kerry and Tyrone, and that highlights Cork are not at the level yet to consistently beat teams of that ilk; the Rebels were unable to follow up the win against Donegal when they met Tyrone. But Cork need to show they can bounce back and take care of business against fellow Division 2 teams, and that’s a platform to build from. It’s another defining game in this season – beat Louth and Cork will, at least, equal their 2023 championship run, but lose and it will feel like a step backwards. 

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