Kerrigan: Cork win was ideal reaction to opening league loss

February 11th, 2023 2:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Sean Powter scored a crucial goal against Kildare last weekend.

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IMPRESSED by Cork’s reaction to their opening-round Division 2 league loss to Meath, former captain Paul Kerrigan wants the Rebels to build on their win against Kildare.

With Dublin venturing into the real capital on February 19th, Kerrigan is hopeful that Cork can carry the form they showed when beating Kildare by 13 points (2-14 to 0-7) into the Páirc Uí Chaoimh showdown.

‘It showed the form they had in winning the McGrath Cup, and out of their three McGrath Cup games and two league matches, the Meath game is the outlier where they didn’t perform. This was a very impressive reaction (against Kildare),’ Kerrigan told the Star Sport Podcast.

‘Newbridge is a very tough place to go and their tails were up after competing against Dublin, so Cork lads showed huge character. I have been lucky enough to come back on bus trips after satisfying away wins so they will really have enjoyed that. It was a good performance and a good reaction to the loss to Meath.’

Kerrigan was impressed, too, by Cork’s immediate reaction to their defeat against Meath (3-14 to 0-19). One week on from that disappointing result at home, Cork went away and produced a commanding performance to get their campaign back on track. It was a win dripping with character. 

‘It was really important (to bounce back) from the group’s point of view,’ Kerrigan said.

‘We were probably over positive going into the start of the league after the McGrath Cup, but the players and management have an unbelievable body of work done. 

‘If you had two defeats in a row you might question what you’re doing and the direction you’re going, so they will take great satisfaction from the performance, the result and the body of work they have put in. 

‘They’ll be searching for consistency now. Cork had a bad second half against Meath, a good enough first half, and now two good halves against Kildare. They will want to carry that into the Dublin game and go on and win it.’

Impressed by Cork’s ‘more cohesive performance’ against Kildare, Kerrigan says there is already a settled look to the Cork team, even though the league is only two games old. Cork had named the same starting 15 for the matches against Meath and Kildare, but made two late changes on Sunday, with Tommy Walsh and Luke Fahy coming into defence.

‘With that first McGrath Cup line-up you knew they wanted to hit the ground running and that they meant business. That line-up has continued all the way through,’ Kerrigan explained.

‘John Cleary wants to have a settled starting 15. Division 2 is the most important division of all, with so much at stake, trying to qualify for the Sam Maguire. John realised that Cork survived by the skin of their teeth last year, but you don’t want to be just surviving, you want to be pushing on and putting it up to the likes of Derry, Meath and Dublin. They have gone with what they think is their strongest team from the start of the year.

‘Against Kildare Kevin O’Donovan was injured and that was an enforced change, I’m not sure what the story with Sean Meehan was, but that was not a major overhaul after a disappointing second half against Meath. For fellas like Eoghan McSweeney, who was taken off against Meath, it gives them great confidence to know that the management will stick with them even if it didn’t go well in patches; that’s hugely important.

‘I thought Chris Óg Jones was brilliant against Meath and really tried to take it to them, but then was taken off at half time against Kildare for Cathail O’Mahony who scored 1-1. There is a settled look, a settled 21/22. There is massive competition to get into that 26, and furthermore to get into the 21 who are playing.’

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