CORK senior football coach Ronan McCarthy doesn’t expect his team to carry any mental baggage into Saturday evening’s Munster SFC semi-final with Tipperary in Semple Stadium (7pm).
The last time the Rebels played Tipp in Thurles, two years ago, it was a first football championship loss to the Premier County since 1944. Last year a late Luke Connolly goal was needed to gain victory in Páirc Uí Rinn before Tipp triumphed by 3-16 to 1-16 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the league this year.
That was McCarthy’s first competitive game in charge and he feels that a lot has changed since.
‘You can only focus on each game as it comes, obviously Tipp was the first league game and we didn’t win it,’ he says.
‘You’re three or four months down the road now, that was January 27th and lots have happened in between for both teams.
‘Every game takes on a different dynamic itself. While the teams know each other well and have played each other regularly over the years and both have had victories, I think every game is a new game and that’s the way we look at it.
‘Whatever has gone on in the past, we can’t change that, we just have to focus on this game.’
Clonakilty goalkeeper Mark White and corner-back Kevin Flahive of Douglas are the championship debutants while Stephen Cronin, Aidan Walsh and Luke Connolly all come into the team after missing the league due to club commitments and injury.
McCarthy didn’t see the spring as a case of just treading water until big names returned, though.
‘We never looked at it that way,’ he says.
‘We looked at what we had for the league and ploughed on with that and felt we had enough, despite the players we were missing, to certainly challenge for promotion.
‘It didn’t happen, but what it does do, with players coming back – and this will happen more as you go through the summer – is that there is an increased competition for places. What it has done is added an extra edge to your training and so on and so forth.
‘You’ve fellas who did well in the league who put themselves into the mix for the Tipp game and then you had the more established fellas coming back and they were going to be pushing for it too.
‘Obviously, that helps the team but from our own point of view you can only go with what you have at the time.
‘An example would be Aidan Walsh. We expected to have him back in January but he got injured and we didn’t have him at all. If you’re waiting for fellas to come back, you could be waiting a long time and you’re better off working with what’s available.
‘That’s the mentality and mindset that we have.’
Castlehaven’s Brian Hurley could make his first appearance for Cork in two years as he’s named as a sub, as is Paul Kerrigan of Nemo Rangers, who has also been out injured. Seán Powter, injured in the Tipp league game, remains out but it’s not far off a full-strength side.
‘Killian O’Hanlon got injured playing for Kilshannig last Friday week,’ McCarthy says.
‘He pulled his hamstring, so he’s out, Seán Powter is out but we have a few back in, obviously Brian Hurley and James Loughrey, Aidan Walsh, a couple of the Nemo lads.
‘They’re all coming back and are training and have played in challenge matches and A versus B games.
‘We came back roughly around April 16th, a lot of the county football championship games had been played by the 15th.
‘There were a few more games, we were caught two ways – one, fellas were playing hurling with their clubs so we didn’t have them that week. We also had U21 football championship that we had released players to and we even had fellas playing North Cork championship in the first week in May.
‘It has been better than previous years in that we’ve been back more or less since the middle of April but without everybody available. You’re always down a few, that’s the nature of it, but from an intercounty point of view it’s better than the two weeks you’d have got before.’
CORK (SF v Tipperary): M White (Clonakilty); K Crowley (Millstreet), J O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), K Flahive (Douglas); S White (Clonakilty), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), T Clancy (Fermoy); A Walsh (Kanturk), I Maguire (St Finbarr’s); K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaigh), M Collins (Castlehaven), R Deane (Bantry Blues); J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), C O’Neill (Ballyclough), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers). Subs: A Casey (Kiskeam), S Ryan (St Finbarr’s), J Loughrey (Mallow), M Taylor (Mallow), C Kiely (Ballincollig), R O’Toole (Éire Óg), P Kelleher (Kilmichael), C Vaughan (Iveleary), M Hurley (Castlehaven), S Sherlock (St Finbarr’s), B Hurley (Castlehaven), P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers).