RONAN McCarthy knows that consistency holds the key to Cork footballers becoming a force.
It’s not just consistency from game to game that the Cork boss wants, but also to improve consistency within games.
The Rebels head into Saturday’s must-win Allianz Football League Division 2 relegation play-off against Westmeath in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (2pm throw-in) on a form line that’s trending upwards – but there have been periods of good and bad in all three league games so far.
Back-to-back victories away to Laois and Clare were the response Cork needed after the opening round loss to Kildare, but McCarthy accepts that his team must be more consistent within games.
‘We, in the management team, would feel that we can mix it with all the best teams at any level if we play consistently, and part of that is being allowed to play,’ McCarthy told The Southern Star.
‘If you look at the three games we have played we have done reasonably well in all three. Looking at the Kildare game, whatever about not taking our chances when we were playing well in the first half, we had a period of 15 minutes in the second half when they took over. Not only did that cost us that match but ultimately it cost us a shot at promotion.
‘We started well against Clare in our last game and built an early lead but then got caught for the penalty. In the second quarter we played really good stuff to go from three points down to three up in a matter of minutes, and by playing really good football, but we need to do all that time.
‘The good teams do that all the time and that’s what we are striving towards.’
If Cork want to bridge the gap to the top teams then keeping their Division 2 status this Saturday is a must. Defeat at home to Westmeath will send the Rebels straight back down to Division 3 where they spent last season – that would be a huge setback for this team.
While McCarthy points out that when Cork were relegated from Division 2 in 2019 it didn’t derail their championship campaign – they reached the Super 8s that season – he also knows that victory this weekend will help build momentum heading into the championship.
‘I think it’s important for the development of the team that we stay in Division 2,’ McCarthy explained.
‘If we were to win against Westmeath we will have won three of our four matches, and if this was a normal seven-game league and you had six points after four games you’d be fairly happy.
‘Win the game and you have a bit of momentum but lose the game and there is the disappointment of relegation, but I don’t think it will derail this group. If we win on Saturday, we stay in Division 2 and we will get some momentum going into the championship.’
McCarthy feels this Cork team is moving in the right direction, and they are certainly in a better place now than after their opening 2-12 to 0-14 defeat to Kildare.
‘Our forward play has improved, we have won away from home in two of the three matches and we beat a Clare team that is difficult to beat. Overall we are motoring okay but we have a difficult test on Saturday,’ the Cork boss said, wary of a Westmeath team that lost all three Division 2 North league games by a combined five points.
‘They lost by a point to Meath in Navan in their first game and they were 0-13 to 0-9 up with ten minutes to go. They were a point down to Mayo after 70 minutes in Mullingar. Having been eight points down at one stage to Down they lost by a point having missed a penalty and had a couple of goal chances. We know how tough they will be but we also know how good we can be if we get it right – and if we do get it right then we’re a good team.’
It comes back again to that consistency McCarthy wants, as Cork target a third win in a row that will keep their Division 2 status.