Allianz National Football League – Division 1
Cork v Down
Is Cork football in crisis? That was certainly the question that was being asked on RTE television last Sunday night during their highlights show. One of the main aspects of Cork’s play that they pointed out was that they had so many men behind the ball when the opposition had the ball and that this was a foreign style that was alien to Cork players.
Just as one swallow does not make a summer, a draw against Armagh in the first round of the National league does not constitute a crisis. When you consider that they played most of the game with 14 men after the first half dismissal of Paul Kerrigan, it actually looks like quite a good result for the 2010 All-Ireland champions.
Personally, I feel that the only crisis facing Cork football at the moment is an injury one, especially in the forwards where Daniel Goulding is currently sidelined with a long term injury. Elsewhere, Cork are not in too bad a shape and unusually amongst the top teams, they are not resting their older players and seem very keen to hang on to their league title.
With Cork unlikely to be tested in the Munster championship until they face Kerry, Conor Counihan may be keen for his team to get some tough games under their belt early in the season.
Down really enjoyed their opening day game at home in Newry against Ulster rivals Donegal and after winning by a single point, they will now that a second victory here will put them in a very strong position at this early stage of the campaign.
After making enormous progress in 2010 when losing to Cork in the All-Ireland final, Down stagnated last year and unless they make a big impression this year, this team will be seen as a flash in the pan. If they fail to deliver this year, there will always be the impression that Marty Clarke was the catalyst for their mini-revival and we can only wonder how much his loss will be felt this year.
If they get all their top players on the field at the one time, Down will be more than a match for most teams but they still seem to lack some top quality defenders.
This may well be down to the fact that they do not employ the same defensive tactics of the other sides and leave their defence a little isolated. The return of Liam Doyle is absolutely massive for Down and no defender in the country will score as much from play as Doyle. This is epitomised by the 1-4 he scored last weekend.
Both of these teams will be disappointed with how 2011 finished after contesting the All-Ireland final in 2010. They may well judge their progress on how they fare this weekend but home advantage should swing it the rebel’s way.
Cork: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cadogan; N O’Leary, G Canty, P Kissane; A O’Connor, P O’Neill; F Goold, M Collins, C O’Driscoll; C O’Neill, D O’Connor, F Lynch
Down team not yet named