Spring Series gives Dublin edge over rivals – Counihan
Published 29/01/2013 | 05:00
Cork manager Conor Counihan believes Dublin are nailing down a distinct advantage over their rivals by arranging to play their home games at Croke Park.
Counihan takes his Cork side to Headquarters to face the Dubs on Saturday night in the knowledge that the hosts' record there since the inception of the Spring Series has been most impressive.
In the seven regular league matches Dublin have played there since the concept was devised for the 2011 campaign, they have lost just once – against Kerry in last year's opening game.
Victories over Kerry, Cork, Mayo and Down in 2011 and Armagh and Donegal in 2012 have pressed home the belief in Gaelic football circles that the advantage they have with the arrangement is unfair.
Counihan stopped short of enumerating in points the advantage it could give Dublin but, with five games on the cards there in the next two months, he admitted: "It is probably a bit much alright.
"This (Croke Park) is where you want to end up at the end of the year and, if you do, the more experience you have of it, the better it is – particularly if you have younger players. Getting them in here early rather than starting them in the heat of championship is good.
"Are there many people saying we don't want to play here? It is a good test for the opposition. If you can overcome that sort of partisan situation, it will stand you in good stead.
"Is it worth a point or two to them? I don't know. Everything is a benefit to them if you allow it. We have to get out and do our own thing and not worry about that. If I was to go out and say it's worth a point or two to them, you're already giving up a few inches to them. When the ball is thrown in, it's nil-all."
Cork are bidding for a fourth successive league title – a feat not achieved since Kerry in 1971-74 – but will be without Paddy Kelly and Daniel Goulding for at least the opening two matches, against Dublin and Kildare.
Counihan will be hoping to amass points in the early stages of a hugely competitive Division 1 to ease the pressure – and perhaps also to give him the chance to go to the Cheltenham Festival, where he was a regular visitor before his management career took off. For the first time, the devoted racing fan is likely to have a runner in the Cotswolds after Farrell's Fancy landed a handicap chase at Leopardstown last Saturday.
The Terence O'Brien-trained nine- year-old is owned by the Beir Bua syndicate that includes Counihan and others from Cork and Waterford.
"It was his first serious win. I had plenty of others who never made the racecourse or anything like that," said Counihan.
Counihan enters his sixth year managing Cork hoping to benefit from the decision of a number of potential dual players to opt exclusively for football – most recently Damien Cahalane and Eoin Cadogan.
"Eoin felt that he could have been out every Sunday in February, March and April if he was also playing hurling, and trying to maintain that would have been difficult," said Counihan.
"Damien is the other side of that. He's a very young player who needs to establish himself in one code. The lads decided to come our way. In other times, they would have gone the other way.
"If I was involved with the hurling team, I would feel the pinch in terms of the loss, but that's the way it goes. Two individuals have made a decision. Whether people want to read more into it is a matter for themselves."