Bantry man believes improved performances will lead to positive results in Division 3
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GRAHAM Canty is confident that Cork’s senior footballers will use the consistency they established this summer to power their 2020 Division 3 promotion bid.
The Cork legend agrees that the Rebels need to regularly test themselves against Division 1 opposition, like they did in the Super 8s this season, and it’s important that they win promotion back to Division 2 at the first attempt next year.
Cork were relegated to Division 3 in April after a disappointing campaign but since then performances have improved dramatically, as Ronan McCarthy’s men qualified for the Super 8s and finished the year with six championship games to learn from.
Cork played three – Dublin, Kerry and Tyrone – of the last four in this year’s All-Ireland SFC, and while they didn’t win any of those contests, they troubled all three teams and showed enough to suggest that they’re back on the right track. That’s why promotion from Division 3 will be so important.
‘Ronan has always said it’s the performances that the group is looking for – and with performances you hope the results will come then. It’s the results that will drive you towards the top of the division and the potential to win promotion,’ Canty explains.
‘If the group can keep focussing on the performances, the results should follow. Hopefully those results will deliver the potential to get out of Division 3 next year. That’s an important step for this team.
‘You have seven league games so you need seven performances. There is a level of expectation now with performances after what we saw the last few months and that expectation is reasonable with the way they performed in the Super 8s.’
Bantry Blues legend Canty was a key contributor to the Cork 2024 plan, launched back in January, that’s designed to revive Cork football. At the launch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh he suggested that Cork were a mid-table Division 2 team, ‘in or around 12th in the country’.
That worsened with Cork’s relegation to Division 3 but since then, Cork football has enjoyed a resurgence. The seniors qualified for the Super 8s, the U20s won the All-Ireland title after beating Kerry, Tyrone and Dublin, and the minors are into the All-Ireland final. The outlook is a lot more positive now, but Canty reiterates that the seniors need to be consistently testing themselves against the top teams.
‘Go back four months ago and people were very disappointed when the senior team was relegated and dropped to Division 3,’ he says.
‘The last two or three performances in Division 2 were good and the group brought that form into the championship and they didn’t let the disappointment of being relegated affect them.
‘There were very good performances in Munster and the Super 8s but we didn’t get the results; we can’t hide away from that. I saw Ronan saying that the group isn’t after moral victories and while no-one is trying to say they are, the performances were still very good against the Division 1 teams.
‘People were disappointed we lost to Roscommon but they’re operating at a higher level than Cork and a few months ago they won a tough Connacht championship where they beat Mayo and Galway, so they’re a good side.
‘We came up short. The ability to win games against the Division 1 sides is something that we have to work on but the feel-good factor is great heading into the winter with those performances behind you.’
Canty was in Portlaoise recently as Cork won the All-Ireland U20 final against Dublin. That was an extremely impressive display after a shaky start, a 17-point turnaround as Cork won 3-16 to 1-14. Again, another indicator that Cork football is on an upward curve. The challenge for those U20s is to bridge the large divide to senior level. The likes of Cathal O’Mahony, Damien Gore (who has already played senior), Mark Cronin and Co all have potential, but Canty urges a degree of caution too.
‘It is a little bit more challenging to transition the U20s to senior inter-county level compared to from the U21s previously. It might just be one year but that’s a lot at that age. It’s a challenge for the senior inter-county management and the players themselves because they are a full year younger. It makes it a little bit harder,’ Canty said.
‘Cork having that little bit of success is great, it’s a little reward for the commitment that lads give to it and with the U20s they beat some very good sides during their campaign – Kerry, Tyrone and Dublin – and they will take that confidence forward into the senior set-up.’