League title no guarantee for championship -- Counihan
THERE were so few Cork supporters in the Croke Park ice box yesterday that it's safe to assume they regard league finals as well down their particular food chain.
But then they have grown so accustomed to following their team in active participation towards the business end of the championship that they will have watched yesterday's game on TV -- to see if the signs are good for the summer campaign.
The answer is yes, but even before the squad headed back home, Rebels manager Conor Counihan wrapped up his third successive Division 1 title with a warning.
"We went out of here last year as National League champions and the season didn't go too well for us after that," he said.
"It's always nice to win any competition, but now we've got to focus on June 10 (v Kerry or Tipperary) and forget about everything else."
Counihan had encouraging words to Mayo, pointing out how Dublin's championship pedigree was questioned after they lost last year's league final, yet five months later they were All-Ireland champions.
Quite whether Mayo can emulate Dublin remains to be seen but, in terms of learning lessons, this league has been good for them.
Manager James Horan didn't dwell too much on whether Lee Keegan was hard done by as he bore down on goal in the 56th minute, opting instead to view the game in its totality, while accepting that Cork were worthy winners.
"Over the course of the game Cork probably deserved to win," he said. "We didn't play up to the tempo we can, which was disappointing.
"Cork did better on the breaking ball. That gave them momentum at crucial times. They were very strong today."
Despite the defeat, Horan is satisfied that Mayo learned a lot from the league.
"We have a lot of work to do -- that's clear. We'll keep the heads down and get on with it," he said.
Mayo will be the last county to enter the championship when they play London or Leitrim on June 24.
Cork will be in action a fortnight earlier and will do so off what has been a progressive league campaign.
"We did some good things but there are a lot of areas where we have to improve. The championship will be a whole new ball game," said Counihan.
Nobody will dispute that.
But Cork will head for the summer showdowns content that the fundamentals are very much in place for a serious bid to repeat the feats of 2010 when they won the league-championship double.