CORK Footballers’ recent league record against Clare does not inspire confidence.
Rivals Munster will face off in a Division Two football league encounter for the fourth time in five seasons this Saturday night (7pm) at Páirc Uí Chaoimh – and it’s Banner’s men who lead the series 3-1.
In 2017, Clare beat Cork (2-11 to 0-9) at Ennis; it was their first league win against the Rebels in 23 years and they loved it so much they repeated the trick in 2018, this time on Cork soil, winning 0-14 to 0-12 at Páirc Uí Rin. In 2019 Colm Collins’ Clare were comfortable winners, 3-13 to 1-10, at Ennis, and that was the season Cork were relegated to Division 3. Returning to Division 2 for 2021, it was a league schedule reduced due to Covid, but Cork won at Clare, 0-22 to 1-18; it wasn’t enough for the Rebels to advance to the knockout stages as Clare did.
It’s also worth noting that since Cork were relegated from Division 1 in 2016, Clare has finished above the Rebels in every league campaign since then. And ahead of Saturday night’s encounter, Cork are looking, once again, to Clare who won their opener against Offaly last weekend, 1-13 to 0-7.
With Cork’s lame start to this campaign – the disappointing 1-13 0-10 loss to Roscommon – this clash with Clare takes on added importance as Keith Ricken’s men will be keen to get points on the board, and for a number reasons: to build confidence and dampen rumors of a possible relegation battle.
Fair enough, Cork have only lost their first game and it’s not the end of the world, but it has the potential to escalate quickly. With a trip to an improving Derry (comfortable winners against Down last weekend) in the third round and then a home game against Division 2 favorites Galway (who hammered Meath on Sunday) in the fourth round, it gives a added importance to Clare’s visit this Saturday. . Win, and that releases some of the pressure. Lose, and that same pressure will increase – and that’s not the noise Ricken wants or needs as his rebuild kicks off.
Reports from Roscommon last Sunday did not offer much encouragement of a sudden turnaround. As much as Cork were inexperienced, so was the home side who had eight league debutants and also lacked a host of regulars. The Rebels just weren’t good enough.
“Even the basic stuff we did today, passing, kicking, some of the options, they weren’t up to what these players are capable of and what we expect from them. ‘them,’ lamented Ricken afterwards, and his side need to up their game for a visit from a Clare side that won’t shy away from Cork.
Ricken underscored the magnitude of this work – and we all know this – and it needs time and patience, but it also needs results along the way to signal that this is the way to go. A positive result against Clare is exactly what we need now, otherwise a relegation drop for an inexperienced group could be just around the corner. The first of three home games offers the chance to get points on the board, but Clare won’t make it any easier; just look at their recent record.
To underline the scale of Ricken’s rebuild, Carbery Rangers striker John O’Rourke is the only Cork footballer to feature in the County’s Division Two loss to Clare in 2017, who also played against Roscommon last Sunday. St Finbarr’s Ian Maguire came on as a substitute in 2017, as did Mark Collins who has yet to commit to the cross-county setup for 2022.
Players who played that day but are not involved now are Ryan Price, Michael Shields, Thomas Clancy, Kevin Crowley, Tomás Clancy, James Loughrey, Stephen Cronin, Aidan Walsh, Ruairi Deane, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Connolly , Niall Coakley, Donncha O’Connor, Paul Kerrigan, Colm O’Neill, Donal Óg Hodnett, Kevin Davis and Colm O’Driscoll. That’s an incredible turnover of players in just five seasons.