Southern Star Ltd. logo

INSIDE TRACK: Clare game could define Cork campaign

March 4th, 2023 6:15 PM

By Southern Star Team

INSIDE TRACK: Clare game could define Cork campaign Image
Cork's Conor Corbett scored a goal against Limerick in the Allianz Football League Division 2 tie at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. (Photo: George Hatchell)

Share this article

FOLLOWING Sunday’s double-header at Páirc Uí Chaoimh I headed west into the low-hanging early springtime sun, blinded at times but happy that the Cork football squad are on a trajectory that consistently points upwards at last. My mind began to wander into the different scenarios that possibly lie ahead.

Following the triple score (6-18 to 0-12) annihilation of Limerick, Cork face two awkward away tests in Clare on Sunday and Louth then to follow two weeks later. The Rebels now lie third in Division 2 on four points with a scoring difference of 31. A tally of that magnitude when it comes to what we hope will be a tight battle for promotion could be as valuable as an extra point. However, a lot needs to happen over the next month for that to come into play.

Cork obviously have to win the two aforementioned games and will be hoping Dublin will do them a favour and win away to Derry. That would mean Cork’s final league game at home to the Oak Leaf County would be a straight battle to see who goes up.

That kind of scenario, if it pans out, would represent huge progress and, provided we get over Limerick and Clare in the championship, we would be heading to Killarney with a genuine chance. Our neighbours aren’t lighting it up at the moment and look a long way off where they were this time last year in terms of both fitness and hunger. Granted, they beat Armagh on Saturday night but the Clifford brothers and Seánie O’Shea were held scoreless from play. Okay, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and that scenario could obviously all go up in smoke in Ennis.

Clare should have beaten both Kildare and Dublin in their last two games. They had decent leads late on only to be overhauled and beaten by a point on both occasions. They currently lie second from bottom and their long-time manager Colm Collins will be desperate for a victory. Unlike Limerick, who were a shambles, these boys can play and will fight. Is there a fitness-level question though, considering they faded late in their last two outings? Or was there a fear factor there to go for the jugular when they had two big teams against the wall?

Back to Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday. It was the first time in a while where the conversations leaving surrounded how clinical the footballers were and how casual the hurlers were. The hurling crew left after the first game but at half-time in the football many fans also made the decision that there was no more to see here, such was the gulf in class and the size of the lead. There is now a familiarity to the team with the same line-up taking the field on the last three occasions. That is a testament to the consistency of the level at which players are performing.


Brian O’Driscoll had to withdraw injured five minutes into the game, to be replaced by fellow Carbery man Ruairí Deane, who had a fine outing. Brian obviously felt something with his hamstring and had the maturity to go off straight away. There was a slight tweak up front also, with Steven Sherlock and Brian Hurley staying up top and Chris Óg Jones this time forming the point of the triangle. It was a role he absolutely revelled in, kicking six points from play as well as assisting on numerous other occasions. Limerick dangermen Brian Donovan and Hugh Bourke were picked up by Maurice Shanley and Daniel O’Mahony while at the other end Brian Fanning picked up the in-form Hurley.

But it was in the middle third that all the damage was done early. Ian Maguire first got in to find the net, followed soon after by Colm O’Callaghan, who enhanced his reputation once again in this tie.

Cork always had a plus-one back. It varied mostly between Luke Fahy or Rory Maguire – a sign of very good communication and organisation that it was the man closest took up the sweeper position. On the other side, Limerick were wide open. They set up man to man with no sweeper – naïve to say the least. Cork burnt them with a mix of hard running and, once again, accurate kicking and that was against the breeze. By the 42nd minute, Cork had 5-10 on the board, all from play, when Sherlock kicked his first free. Such control gave John Cleary the opportunity to rest some of his leading lights with his mind turning towards the upcoming battle in Ennis.

Maguire and Hurley were taken early followed by Fahy, Shanley and Seán Powter, all key players. Conor Corbett got a valuable half-hour into his legs at this level, plundering two goals in the process. His first, from a great crossfield ball from O’Callaghan, which he took over his head and blasted home, was a super goal. O’Mahony was again brilliant at full-back, getting the hand in, always making contact and driving his team forward repeatedly on the turnover. Unusually, he also scored an own point in the first half, feeling it was necessary to touch a dangerous across-the-box punch-pass over, rather than risk catching and ending up in his own net. Great awareness and a smart move but game context would have been taken into consideration.

So, 6-18 scored last Sunday and Cork are now the joint-highest-scoring team in the league with Leitrim. However, giving a hammering can often lead to mental relaxation so be wary. This could be a season-defining Sunday in Ennis.

Share this article