Thursday 22 February 2018

Cork ills should be a warning to Meath

GAA: Allianz Football League Division 2

Sean Wall

'What has gone wrong with Cork football?' was the heading on the sport pages of a national newspaper recently.

That should serve as a warning to Meath as they make the trip to Páirc Uí Rinn for a round 5 NFL Division 2 tie this Sunday, throw-in at 2pm.

Remember the turmoil that had seemingly engulfed the Down football camp after a losing sequence that lasted 22 months, with players reportedly walking away from the county panel.

The Mourne men had just suffered their latest loss to Clare and seemed to be easy pickings as Meath travelled to Newry two weeks later. However the Royals were on the receiving end of a shock and there were few signs of turmoil as Eamonn Burns side recorded a 1-13 to 0-14 win to end their long losing sequence.

Cork also suffered defeat to newly promoted Clare, 2-11 to 0-9, in their last outing and that shock reversal focussed the spotlight on the Leesiders who have just one win from their four outings to date.

They also tasted defeat at the hands of Kildare and shared the spoils away to Galway. Their only win of the campaign so far was a 1-14 to 0-9 home victory over Fermanagh.

Peadar Healy's team were relegated from the top tier of the league last year and then suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Tipperary in the Munster semi-final.

Cork's plight is puzzling considering they have won four of the last five U-21 provincial titles and their team still contains players of the experience of Paul Kerrigan, Michael Shields, Donncha O'Connor and Aidan Walsh. However 2010 All-Ireland winners Paddy Kelly, Daniel Gouling and Fintan Goold have all retired.

The outcome of Sunday's contest will go a long way determining where the respective counties end up at the end of the campaign. Meath produced their best display to date in the win over Galway and the worst in the previous outing when losing to Down.

On that form it is difficult to predict what might happen in this meeting. The return following injury of Donnacha Tobin and Pauric Harnan for the game against the Tribesmen greatly strengthened the Meath defence.

The impending return of James McEntee will prove a further boost as will Mickey Newman who lined out with his club in a league game at the weekend.

Midfield remains a problem area for Meath though and it will be interesting if Andy McEntee and his selectors persist with the partnership of Bryan Menton and James Toher. Toher came on as a sub for the county hurlers last weekend as did Mickey Burke and the pairs involvement in both codes could provide problems further down the road.

Two points from this outing will put Meath firmly in the promotion race while defeat will leave the Royals fighting a relegation battle. Such has been the unpredictability of Meath's play so far in the campaign, anything is possible.

Drogheda Independent

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