A win against old foes can help Cork put bad days to bed - Collins
There was no escaping it. Mark Collins remembers retreating to base on the Sunday night after their hammering at the hands of Roscommon.
Collins shares a house with his Castlehaven and Cork team-mate Brian Hurley and even though they were home, it felt like the stench of that defeat was following them everywhere.
"That Sunday night after the Roscommon game I went up to the shop and you'd be embarrassed to be there after putting in as bad a performance as any Cork team has put in," he recalls.
The Rebels had been dismantled in their own back yard but perhaps mercifully, there was little time for wallowing. The day after that defeat, the squad gathered. By that stage they were just five days away from a daunting trip to Dublin to face the All-Ireland champions but Cork regrouped.
By the time they took to the pitch in Croke Park, they had completely changed their set-up.
There is no doubt about the potency of their forwards as they have been top scorers in two of the last three regular-season Division 1 campaigns. But they have struggled defensively. As former Rebel star Colman Corrigan put it earlier this week, they lack some 'boot, bol*x and bite' in their rearguard.
And Collins believes they have applied the lessons from this year's League.
"We've learned a lot from the defeats this year. Against Donegal and Roscommon we were a bit naïve maybe, playing too much football. But we changed things a little bit against Dublin and we've played a bit more defensively in the last three games."
Although they lost to Dublin, there was enough in the opening 50 minutes to restore some confidence. They've picked up two wins since but head to Tralee knowing that defeat could bring them back into the relegation picture and they could even squeeze into a semi-final spot.
It hasn't been straight forward for Cork this year. They head to Kerry without eight of the side that started last year's replayed Munster final. At one stage this year, they were without 17 players through injuries and they are still without the likes of former captain Michael Shields, Patrick Kelly and Donncha O'Connor.
Those absences have meant that manager Peadar Healy has gone deep into his panel and discovered some fresh talent, including Peter Kelleher who will miss this weekend due to U21 commitments.
It means that having made his debut back in 2011, Collins is one of the senior men in the squad. A lot has changed since then as he joined a Cork panel that were reigning All-Ireland champions. That side has all but broken up and this side are looking to make their own mark. A win on Kerry turf would go a long way.
They can travel with some confidence, in their last two league meetings, Cork have managed to run up double-figure wins over the Kingdom.
"A lot of us would have played against a lot of them at underage level and we would have had a bit of success against them but we haven't got a win in championship against them of late. We are just concentrating on this weekend but it would be great for us to get something down there."