CORK football manager Ronan McCarthy has called on his charges to lift their game for Sunday’s must-win Division 2 South clash against Clare in Ennis.
The Rebels know a win by four points or more will guarantee them a spot in the league semi-finals, while if Cork win by three points or less their fate will depend on the result of Kildare’s match against Laois – both games throw in at 1.45pm this Sunday afternoon.
A draw would be enough for Cork if Kildare lose to Laois, but the Rebels know what they have to do to take control of their destiny.
Still, Clare have held the upper-hand on Cork in recent league encounters and the Banner men have won the last three Division 2 meetings between the counties (2017-2019).
‘We will have to bring this performance level and more,’ Cork boss Ronan McCarthy said after last weekend’s 2-12 to 0-10 win away to Laois.
‘Clare have caused us plenty of trouble over the last couple of years. It’s going to be a difficult game, we will focus on ourselves and will make sure that we lift our performance.
‘We were more consistent this week than last week and we have to lift it again next week.’
Clare head into Sunday’s showdown with a 100 percent record after wins at home to Laois (1-16 to 0-12) and away to Kildare (1-13 to 0-13). But Clare also know they’re not guaranteed a semi-final spot and a shot at promotion just yet, so there is a lot on the line for both teams in Ennis.
The home side won’t fear Cork. At Cusack Park in 2017, Clare won the Division 2 meeting between the counties by 2-11 to 0-9 – and that was Clare’s first football league win over Cork in 23 years. They liked that feeling so much, Clare have won the most recent two league fixtures as well – they beat Cork 0-14 to 0-12 in Páirc Uí Rinn in 2018 and defeated Cork by 3-13 to 1-10 in another Division 2 clash in 2019.
Given that recent history between the two, Cork have it all to do to make it to the Division 2 semi-finals, but they will travel in convoy to Ennis knowing what they have to do. Last weekend’s performance against Laois was an improvement on the showing against Kildare – but there’s a lot of ground to cover ahead of the championship.
‘There were really good elements to our play at times. Other times we were a bit helter-skelter and lacked a bit of control but overall there were some really, really top performances from some players,’ Ronan McCarthy surmised.
Cork were without attackers Cathail O’Mahony (calf strain) and Brian Hurley (concussion) against Laois, and they won’t take any risks with the duo for the trip to Clare. McCarthy also noted that Luke Connolly, who started against Laois, has had very little training, while Damien Gore and Shane Forde, who both came on as subs, didn’t have a week’s training under their belts ahead of the game.
‘We are ambitious and we want to be promoted so if we lost against Laois that was gone. The most important thing is we have an opportunity to get promotion or at least get to a league semi-final. It will be a difficult game against Clare,’ McCarthy added, as he plots to turn the recent formbook between Cork and Clare footballers on its head.