Sam Maguire Cup or Tailteann route – what’s next for Cork footballers?

April 17th, 2023 3:07 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

The coveted Sam Maguire cup.

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Give us the facts: what’s the damage to Cork after the Rebels' Munster SFC quarter-final defeat to Clare?

Okay, from an historical perspective, it’s not pretty reading for Cork players or supporters. This was Cork’s first Munster senior football championship loss to Clare in 26 years, since Martin Daly struck a late winning goal for the Banner men in a provincial semi-final in 1997. This was also just Clare’s second championship win over Cork since 1941, and the Rebels’ first Munster SFC quarter-final exit in 20 years, since a loss to Limerick in 2003. It also means Cork’s wait for a Munster SFC title will stretch to at least 12 years; the last success back in 2012.


Ouch. But what’s the damage to Cork this season?

The truth is we don’t know the full extent just yet, but what this defeat to Clare has done is shroud Cork’s championship hopes in uncertainty. This is the first year of the revamped All-Ireland senior football championship that will see 16 teams compete in a Champions-League style group stage for Sam Maguire, with the rest scrapping it out for the Tailteann Cup. This loss to Clare means Cork still don’t know what their championship future looks like. Squeaky bum time as we wait to see what happens elsewhere.


What needs to happen for Cork to compete for Sam Maguire instead of the Tailteann Cup?

We’re waiting on other results now. With the leagues linked to the new championship, Cork’s fourth-place finish in Division 2 leaves the Rebels ranked 12th overall. Before this meeting, that looked good enough to see Cork take their place amongst the top 16 – but that’s no longer guaranteed. With the eight provincial finalists earning a golden ticket, as well as 2022 Tailteann Cup winners Westmeath, it’s the seven next best teams from the league that go forward. What we know now is that either Clare or Limerick will contest the Munster final and either New York or Sligo will line out in the Connacht decider – and all these teams are ranked below Cork after the league. It now means Cork are the second lowest ranked league team hoping to squeeze into the All-Ireland, and the Rebels are waiting to see how the provincial championships pan out.


It’s the waiting game. What’s the nightmare scenario for Cork now?

If two more teams ranked below Cork from the league make it through to their provincial finals, then the Rebels will find themselves in the second-tier competition. For example, if Meath (ranked 14th after the league) in Leinster and Cavan (ranked 15th) in Ulster qualify for their respective finals, then Cork are out of the Sam Maguire. Keep an eye on Meath and Cavan results in the weeks ahead – Meath play Offaly in a Leinster quarter-final, while Cavan face Armagh in an Ulster quarter-final.


This loss could have far-reaching implications, so.

Potentially, yes. As Cork boss John Cleary admitted after the one-point defeat to Clare, ‘I don’t know where we are going from here until we see how the championship pans out’. Hopefully Cork still take their place in the All-Ireland championship, but what this setback will also have done is hurt the Rebels’ seeding for the group draw. If, as was expected, Cork had qualified for the Munster final they would have been a first or second seed, depending on the result against Kerry (with respect to Tipp). But now if Cork advance, they’ll be fourth seeds, because of their league status, so would face a potentially tougher draw. All is not lost, so let’s just see how the next few weeks evolve.

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