Tuesday 20 August 2019

Bewildered Rebels start campaign from lowest base for decades

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy pictured in the middle of his backroom team. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy pictured in the middle of his backroom team. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's a sign of how much value Cork's football stock has lost that even the merest hint of encouragement is seized upon as a means of rebuilding confidence.

A good performance against Dublin in a challenge game has lifted spirits in the camp after a traumatic Allianz League campaign, which ended with Cork dropping into Division 3, accumulating only five of a possible 14 points.

It followed last year's dismal championship, where they lost to Kerry and Tyrone by a combined total of 33 points. That was after avoiding relegation from Division 2 on the head-to-head rule.

The results sheet for the past 18 months does not augur well for Cork, but events took a helpful turn in the Munster Championship when Limerick beat Tipperary in the first round a few weeks ago.

Limerick fully deserved their win, but the general perception is that Tipp, who beat Cork in the 2016 Munster Championship and ran them to a point a year later, would have a better chance of prolonging the Rebels' pain. With Saturday's game in Páirc Uí Rinn, Cork's case is strengthened, after which Kerry are their likely opponents in the final.

Opportunity

Larry Tompkins, the former Cork All-Ireland-winning captain and manager, believes that this championship provides Ronan McCarthy and his squad with a great opportunity to make rapid progress.

"If there's anything in them at all, it has to come out now. In all probability, it will be a Cork-Kerry Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoímh and after what happened there last year, the Cork lads would surely respond.

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"They started well last year and then fell away as if they had no energy left whatsoever. It was pathetic to watch. The players who experienced that would surely be promising themselves it will never happen again. There are new lads around now too, who have potential," said Tompkins.

He still expects Kerry to win the title, but believes that if Cork take enough out of the provincial campaign, they could reach the 'Super 8s'.

"They were terrible against Tyrone last year but should have beaten Mayo in Round 4 in 2017. Mayo won by a point in extra-time and two months later they ran Dublin to a point in the All-Ireland final. Cork are an enigma. They're certainly not as bad as their form for the past year would suggest but they've got to start proving that.

"I could still see them making the Super 8s, which would be a massive boost. Mind you, that's where Cork should be, not dropping into Division 3 and losing championship games by big margins."

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