BY KIERAN McCARTHY
IT'S a vicious circle for the Cork footballers right now.
Behind in the pecking order that sees the Rebel hurlers and the new PÃ¡irc UÃ Chaoimh hog the headlines and adulation, football captain Paul Kerrigan admits that they're sitting in third place.
To move up the ladder, the Nemo man says, they need to build a better connection with the supporters, and to achieve that they need to starting winning.
The problem is that Cork footballers are struggling these times and haven't claimed a big scalp â of a team rated above them â in years, and now they face Mayo in an All-Ireland SFC Round 4A qualifier this Saturday evening in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 5pm throw-in.
âIt's something we have spoken about, the need to make a connection with the public and the crowd,' Kerrigan said.
âUltimately it comes down to performances on the pitch and the hurlers are doing that.Â
âWith the stadium and the hurlers we are probably coming third at the moment, so we know how important it is that we start winning games because as players we need to get back to Croke Park, that's where we want to be. That will also helps us create and build a connection with the Cork public and try to get them behind us.
âThere was a big support in Killarney for the Munster final, we just didn't win, but it's up to us to build that connection through our performances.'
Kerrigan, one of Cork's better performers this year, is honest as always when he admits that this season hasn't gone well â but he still believes that they can cause a surprise on Saturday evening against a Mayo team, while defeated All-Ireland finalists last season, have also slipped somewhat. But all indicators points to a Mayo win, including Cork's lack of a big scalp in recent times.
âWe have come close, Mayo in 2014 and Donegal last year,' Kerrigan noted.Â
âI'd be hopeful that we can start well on Saturday and take a bit of confidence from that. We have as tough a draw as anyone in this round.Â
âEventually, to get to where we want to be we are going to have to take that step up and beat a top team like Mayo. They might feel under a bit of pressure, that's it's now or never for them to win the All-Ireland, that time is running out for a lot of them, so we need to put them under pressure, go toe-to-toe with them for 55, 60 minutes and then our bench can come on and make an impact.'
For Cork to win, they need to produce a performance that hasn't looked on the cards for some time.Â
And they also need to increase their intensity levels from the Munster final defeat to Kerry, as Kerrigan admits that the Rebels came up short in too many areas that day.
âKerry scored a lot. We had fellas back in defensive positions but we weren't doing what we should have done, maybe a lack of intensity and we weren't hands-on around the middle third. We left them play a bit,' he admitted.
âMayo are very much a top team and we can't let them play around the middle third, they'll get runners right in by our goal so we need to increase our intensity and get hands on in the middle of the field, and all over too, to be honest.'
âWe can't stand back and admire Mayo.
âWe left Kerry play, we weren't hands-on and look what happened.
âOur scoring efficiency was very poor against Kerry and we need to improve that.
âMayo are a very streaky team in terms of scoring so we need to keep their shots and scoring down, and we need to hit a purple patch. We've been creating loads of chances right throughout the league but we haven't been taking them. We need to start putting them over, we need to start being meaner and a bit more physical.'
Kerrigan added: âIf we get a good start this Saturday it will give us confidence and might put a bit of doubt in Mayo's mind.
âHopefully this is the scalp that we need to get us and up and running.'