En route to winning last year’s McGrath Cup, Cork beat both LIT and UL, so they will hope yesterday’s victory over Mary Immaculate College at Mallow proves to be a good omen.
Very little else can be taken from a 37-point win, however, and Cork manager Brian Cuthbert admitted afterwards little could be taken from the game bar the progression to a quarter-final tie with Tipperary next weekend.
“It was what it was, to be honest,” he said.
“Mary I is a very small college, when they’re up against one of the counties it’s going to be very difficult for them, I wouldn’t be reading too much into it. If you look at our results against college sides last year, it was similar. For the colleges, they get more games but I don’t think anyone wants [big scores like] that.”
While Cork got three points in the opening five minutes, the wait until the 17th for John Hayes to add a fourth suggested Mary I might frustrate the home side. But the ante was upped considerably after that. The score was 0-9 to 0-1 with five minute to half-time when George Durrant found Brian Hurley and he in turned hand-passed across goal for wing-back Jamie O’Sullivan to palm home. Soon after, Michael Cussen – playing his first Cork football game since the 2009 All-Ireland final – sent a nice ball in to Hayes, who sidestepped goalkeeper Anthony O’Connell before finishing.
While Conor Rabbitt got his and Mary I’s second point, Fiachra Ó Deasúnaigh then rounded off a flowing move to leave it 3-9 to 0-2 at half-time for Cork. The Bishopstown man showed up well, as did the likes of Daniel Hazel and George Durrant. The newcomers will be afforded more chances, though, by and large, Cuthbert feels the panel is more settled than a year ago.
“Last year, we were coming into this competition minus seven or eight stalwarts. This year we’re a bit more settled, we know what we have, we don’t have any dual players.
“I’d like to think we’re a bit more settled and fellas are a bit more aware of what this is all about. We’ll take it week by week, we’re happy with the work we’ve done but we’ve a long, long way to go.”
A raft of half-time changes did little to weaken Cork, though one – the insertion of Eoin Cadogan into midfield – may have raised a few eyebrows. He got an early goal, when O’Connell’s save rebounded off him and in, while two more subs, Colm O’Neill and Donncha O’Connor, got in some shooting practice too.
Another replacement, Colm O’Driscoll, got the fifth goal after O’Connor picked him out and O’Connor himself raised a green flag late on before O’Driscoll got a second. A game which won’t be remembered for too long but it means more game-time against Tipp next week and possibly more experiments like Cadogan in the middle.
“It’s a case he has been working in Armagh,” Cuthbert said, “so he has missed out on training and we wanted to give him as much ball as we could.
“He enjoyed the fact he wasn’t marking someone for a change! Eoin’s a very good player, he’s been in the full-back line a long time for Cork, we’re looking at different options for players and he’d be one of them.”
Scorers for Cork: J Hayes 1-5, C O’Driscoll 2-0, D O’Connor 1-3 (two frees), E Cadogan 1-1, C O’Neill 0-4 C O’Neill (one free, one 45), B Hurley 0-3 (two frees), J O’Sullivan, F Ó Deasúnaigh 1-0 each, D Hazel, M Cussen, K O’Driscoll, G Durrant 0-1 each.
Scorers for MI: C Rabbitt 0-3 (one free), P O’Connor 0-1 (free).
CORK: K O’Halloran; L Jennings, S O’Donoghue, N Galvin; J O’Sullivan, P Hodnett, D Hazel; F Goold, M Cussen; K O’Driscoll, J O’Rourke, G Durrant; F Ó Deasúnaigh, J Hayes, B Hurley.
Subs: E Cadogan for Goold, C O’Neill for Hurley, D O’Connor for O’Rourke, J Loughrey for Galvin (all half-time), C O’Driscoll for Hayes (51), R Price for O’Halloran (54).
MARY IMMACULATE COLLEGE: A O’Connell (Cork); P Bane (Galway), J Farragher (Galway), T O’Brien (Cork); D Burke (Tipperary), C Brennan (Clare), K Cremin (Cork); D O’Driscoll (Cork), J Leonard (Galway); D Foran (Kerry), D O’Connell (Tipperary), A O’Neill (Cork); D Russell (Galway), P O’Connor (Kerry), C Rabbitt (Galway).
Subs: A Power (Cork) for O’Driscoll (22, black card), L Kelleher (Cork) for Foran (half-time), A Walsh (Cork) for Bane (55), Foran for O’Connor (63, injured), P O’Heney (Tipperary) for Farragher (34),
Referee: S Mulvihill (Kerry).