Southern Star Ltd. logo
Premium Exclusives

Cork footballers must build on first league win, insists All-Ireland winner Noel O’Leary

February 29th, 2024 5:20 PM

By Sean Holland

Cork footballers must build on first league win, insists All-Ireland winner Noel O’Leary Image
Young Cork fans living in Cavan Town, Jack O'Mahony (5) and his brother Liam (3), pictured with Cork star Ruairi Deane after the Rebels’ win against Fermanagh on Sunday. Jack and Liam’s grandfather, Denis O'Mahony, is originally from Dromclough, Bantry, and is now living in London, so his grandsons were thrilled to meet Bantry footballer Deane.

Share this article


SPORT nowadays is all about fine margins. It’s scrutinised to the last. Fine margins can come in many different shapes and sizes. Cork footballers lost to Cavan who scored two injury-time points, but the Rebels rebounded last Sunday to beat Fermanagh away, 1-14 to 0-16, thanks to a Maurice Shanley injury-time goal. Again, fine margins.

‘It is fine margins,’ former Cork All-Ireland winner Noel O’Leary told The Southern Star after the Rebels picked up their first points in Division 2. Losses to Donegal, Louth and Cavan preceded a badly-needed first win.

‘I know there was a lot of expectation on Cork coming into the year. Obviously, after 2023, there was momentum there. It’s kind of stalled since but it could have been a lot different. When you look back at the game against Louth, it was goal chances that left them down and they repeated that against Cavan. It would have painted a totally different picture if they got over those two games.

‘They're heading into the Kildare game this Sunday (in SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3.30pm) on two points and could have possibly been looking at getting eight points on the board if they had a bit of luck. It's fine margins.

‘Their biggest disappointment really was Donegal. They didn't perform up there and that put pressure on the team from the get-go then. I still think they have huge potential. It's just fine lines. You've got to take your chances, especially at this level,’ O’Leary explained.

After having a disastrous start to the league campaign, O’Leary feels the result against Fermanagh is the spark that’s needed to get things back on track. A win against struggling Kildare on Sunday is what’s needed now.

‘I know you obviously try to be positive, but you can't be overly positive until you get a result. They’ve got that now against Fermanagh. That was a huge boost for their confidence. Any day that you can go up to the north and come home with a win is a big achievement. It's now to try and build on that,’ O’Leary said.

‘Kildare is a huge one now on Sunday. Win that and they're on four points then and they've momentum heading into a Meath game where I would feel that they're as good as, if not better. If they can perform and get a result up there, that's six points and they're heading into the final game against Armagh whereby they can possibly finish on eight points in a season that looked doomed. So that's a positive in itself when you look at it that way,’ he said.

O’Leary battled for years in a Cork defence that was watertight. In recent times, however, that defence has started to take on water. After four rounds of league action, only four teams have conceded more total points than Cork (71) this season. It makes for interesting reading – Monaghan (86) are bottom of Division 1, Waterford (80) are bottom of Division 4, Limerick (74) are bottom of Division 3, and finally … Kerry (72). What does the Cill na Martra man think is the issue for Cork’s troubles in defence?

‘Individually, they're all talented players. But it’s a confidence thing. I've seen it with ourselves down through the years when I was playing. If you're going through a rough patch, the lack of confidence can seep through the team and it's not until you can get a result whereby then you can start settling things down and finding your feet a bit. I just think they just have to have confidence in each other,’ he explained.

It was a Cork defender, Maurice Shanley, who saved the day against Fermanagh in Ederney, palming home an injury time goal to help snatch a crucial win. The home side bossed most of the first half but only led by two at the break, 0-8 to 0-6. Scores from Brian Hurley and Chris Óg Jones levelled the game before Fermanagh moved three clear, 0-13 to 0-10. Cork hung in there, and were in a position to strike after scores from Ian Maguire and Steven Sherlock narrowed the gap. Then came the goal, Shanley finishing a teasing Ruairi Deane pass across the goal; that gave Cork an injury time lead they held on to.


Fermanagh: G Jones 0-7 (3f); D McCusker 0-3 (1m); S Cassidy, S McGullion 0-2 each; S McNally (45), U Kelm 0-1 each.

Cork: B Hurley 0-8 (7f); M Shanley 1-0; C Corbett 0-2 (1m, 1sl); M Taylor , I Maguire, C Óg Jones, S Sherlock (m) 0-1 each.

Fermanagh: S McNally; L Cullen, C Cullen, O Smyth; D McCusker, S McGullion, J Largo Elis; B Horan, J McDade; C McGee, R McCaffrey, C McShea; U Kelm, G Jones, S Cassidy.

Subs: R Bogue for McNally (50), D King for Cassidy (65), C Jones for Magee (68), J Reihill for Kelm (75), J McMahon for McGullion (75).

Cork: C Kelly; K Flahive, D O’Mahony, T Walsh; D Cashman, R Maguire, M Taylor; I Maguire, C O’Callaghan; E McSweeney, C Corbett, B O’Driscoll; M Cronin, B Hurley, C Óg Jones.

Subs: L Fahy for Cashman (ht), R Deane for Cronin (ht), S Powter for McSweeney (49), M Shanley for Walsh (58), S Sherlock for Jones (63).

Tags used in this article

Share this article

Related content