You’d be mad to take your eyes off Cork, the tertius gaudens

ALLIANZ FL DIVISION 1: Cork v Donegal
You’d be mad to take your eyes off Cork, the tertius gaudens

It was Seachtain na Gaeilge, a week when the Irish public pay a little more attention than usual to their ‘native’ tongue. Seán told me of his grand-uncle from Coomhola, whom he claimed was one of the last native Irish speakers in that beautiful part of West Cork.

He also spoke of the typical Cork man’s enduring distaste for Kerry football and Kilkenny hurling and his mischievous eyes betrayed no small amount of glee when talk turned to the GAA blue-bloods’ current predicament.

Our conversation was all too brief but as he left the company, the professor let it be known he was off to place a bet on the outcome of the papal conclave in Rome. Having absorbed some of the chat on early morning radio, I enquired whether he fancied either of the front-runners, Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy or Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Brazil.

It was at this point that my ignorance was laid bare.

I had, of course, never heard of the term, tertius gaudens. Ó Coileáin explained that it is a Latin term which translates as “a rejoicing third.” It means that a third party will benefit when two other people are in some dispute or competition. Or in other words, when there is an apparent conflict or competition between two parties, the third party is the one to look out for.

On the journey home to Kerry that evening as thoughts rambled off on the pathway to championship 2013, I started thinking about the identity of the potential “rejoicing third” from the league front runners to date this year.

Given that Dublin are the hottest team in the game at the moment, and that Donegal as reigning All-Ireland champions made Kerry look very ordinary indeed last weekend, the other potential front runners for ultimate glory are Tyrone and Cork.

You’d be mad to take your eyes off Cork.

Two wins on the road have put them right back on the radar again after a sluggish enough start to the league campaign. They now have a bit of momentum and that momentum will be needed if they are to beat their third Ulster opposition in two weeks.

It remains to be seen what relevance last year’s All-Ireland semi-final will have to this evening’s game in Páirc Uí Rinn (throw-in 5pm) but I imagine it will have some bearing on the way the game is played.

We have to expect Eoin Cadogan to tail Michael Murphy. If the Douglas man succeeds where Peter Kelly, Dan McCartan, Colin Clarke and Aidan O’Mahony struggled in the league so far, he will have done a good hour’s work and may have informed the Cork management’s thinking for the rest of the year.

In the corresponding league fixture last year, I can recall Michael Murphy returning from injury for what was a key game for Donegal. He caught the first ball in after 12 seconds, turned Eoin O’Mahony and plundered the type of goal we saw later in September’s final. The stabilising effect of having Cadogan in the full back line on a consistent basis, away from the dual role distraction, should not be underestimated in the long run.

Cork will have to make a decision sooner or later too on whether or not to persist with the midfield partnership they’ve had in the last few league matches. Aidan Walsh has taken his game to another level in recent weeks and some of that has to be down to Graham Canty’s experience alongside him.

Canty appeared to have decided at various stages last year that his role was as a deep lying centre back offering protection to the full back-line and on the few forays he made upfield towards the end of the year, he looked unsure and indecisive. Uncertainty and indecision were never traits one would have associated with Canty and now that he has a less restrictive midfield role where his primary function is to put wind in Walsh’s sails, he appears to be a lot more at home.

But Alan O’Connor’s return to the fold after injury should not force the Cork management’s hand in any way. Leaving the Canty-Walsh axis intact allows Cork to dictate the play as opposed to reacting to what is happening in front of them.

Neil Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh provide the perfect test this evening. Kavanagh offers the type of intelligent running and support play that has caused Canty a bit of bother in the past, while Gallagher is one of a few inter-county midfielders who will relish going toe to toe with Walsh.

Somewhat surprisingly, Donegal keeper Paul Durcan chose to go short with seven of their 11 kickouts against Kerry last weekend but in last August’s semi final we saw Durcan at his innovative best, finding Gallagher on countless occasions with his trademark sliced kick that Cork failed to counteract.

If Cork play as selected this evening, it will be interesting to see how Donncha O’ Connor performs on the forty. O’Connor is one of the most intuitive inside forwards in the game but he struggled badly against Donegal last year. Much of this was down to the Cork half back-line’s inability to thread the ball into their inside forwards and the funnel effect of Donegal’s deep lying forwards meant O’Connor was under pressure anytime he got a sniff of the ball. Like Canty, O’Connor should benefit from a less restrictive role.

The other curiosity for Cork supporters this evening has to be the form of emerging talent like Barry O’ Donovan and Mark Collins. It may well be at this stage, a bit loose to call them ‘emerging players’ as, much like a few of their Kerry counterparts, O’Donovan and Collins are at the stage where they might be feeling the need to make their claims for a starting jersey.

With Ciarán Sheehan, Patrick Kelly and Daniel Goulding still out of the picture, games such as this must be used to keep less established players in the thoughts of management and supporters alike.

With Donegal arriving fresh from their chartered flight from An Charraig Fhinn airport and Cork supporters out in numbers for the first of two games involving their county teams, there should be a good buzz about Páirc Uí Rinn this evening.

I expect Cork to give their supporters something to cheer about and, as I learned myself from our professor friend during the week, it does a fella some good to get out sometimes.

You never know what you might learn!

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