AVOIDING relegation to Division 3 of the Allianz Football League would be a good result for Cork, insists former captain Paul Kerrigan.
The Rebels make the long trip north this Sunday to take on table-toppers Derry in Owenbeg (1pm throw-in, deferred coverage on TG4) before then hosting Galway the following weekend.
Derry and Galway, who have both won their first two league games, are the favourites to win promotion to Division 1 so the odds are stacked against Cork adding to the one point they’ve picked up in the campaign to date.
‘Looking at the squad and looking at their next two games, against Derry and Galway, I think staying up would be a really good achievement, if they can,’ 2010 All-Ireland winner Kerrigan told The Star Sport Podcast.
‘Before the league people might have talked about going up, but I think consolidating in mid-table in Division 2 would be a really good start, as well as finding a few new players.’
Cork followed their opening-round loss away to Roscommon with a home draw against Clare in their last game, but it’s increasingly looking like their last three matches will determine their Division 2 fate. On Sunday, March 13th, Cork are away to Meath, then they are home to Down the following Sunday before rounding off the campaign away to Offaly on Sunday, March 27th. So far, Meath, Down and Offaly have failed to pick up a point between them, so Cork’s draw against Clare could yet prove decisive.
‘It could be a valuable point. In fairness to Clare, while everyone always seems to write them off, they are always in the top half of the league,’ Kerrigan said.
‘Derry and Galway are two favorites to go up and then it’s Offaly, Down and, surprisingly, Meath who are struggling. It was only a few years ago we went to Navan and won so that is a place where Cork could go and take a point. It would be great if we could get something out of the next two games. Cork won’t fear Galway at home, but I think Derry will be a tough one because it’s a long journey and it’s a very defensive set-up to break down. With an inexperienced team I think they could struggle a bit. The next two games will really test them.’
Nemo Rangers stalwart Kerrigan admits he is surprised by the sheer size of the rebuild that new manager Keith Ricken has undertaken. Eight players from last year’s panel, for various reasons, are not involved this season so Ricken is investing in youth.
‘I didn’t think he would go that young but he is,’ Kerrigan said.
‘There were five or six changes from the Roscommon game to the Clare game so there are plenty of guys getting a chance. He has looked at guys in the club championships too and given them a go; guys like Rory Maguire from Castlehaven, who has done very well since he came in, and Joe Grimes from Clon who has come in. There are guys putting their hands up from the club championship and you want that too.
‘It is a massive rebuild. To me, Sean Meehan and Liam O’Donovan are three and six on that team, and that might free up Sean Powter, and then you have Ian Maguire at midfield – that’s the spine of your team missing right now.
‘They are going to have to find someone up front, too. It will take a few games to find a settled forward line for the championship.’
Next up is a Derry team that has beaten Offaly and Down in their opening two games.