First things first, Oisín McConville has warned Cork not to expect any favours from Armagh this weekend. Back in the league’s second-tier after two seasons in Division 3, the Orchard County are safely tucked away midtable and with neither promotion nor relegation on their radar, Kieran McGeeney’s charges have little to play for tomorrow.
But despite there being nothing tangible for them to chase as the league winds down, former Armagh forward McConville reckons they’ll want to claim the two points on offer so as to finish in the top half of the Division 2 table, not to mind extending an unbeaten home run in the league which stretches back to April of 2017. As for their guests, the arithmetic is fairly straightforward. Ronan McCarthy’s charges must get the better of Armagh and hope that Clare do not do likewise away to Tipperary in order to avoid becoming the first Cork team to suffer relegation to the league’s third-tier.
McConville doesn’t foresee events in Semple Stadium deciding Cork’s faith. He expects Armagh to secure their third win of the league and, in the process, condemn Cork to Division 3 football in 2020. It is just four years since Cork overcame Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Monaghan and Tyrone en route to the Division 1 final, but the county has since won only nine of 28 league outings. McConville’s take is that Cork’s internal structures simply don’t cut the mustard, certainly not by comparison with top-tier counties.
“I think they’ve been done a disservice by the people at the top [in Cork]. I’m pretty sure there is a lot of work going on inside the camp, but I don’t know if the structures are there in the same way they are there in other counties,” said the 2002 All-Ireland medal winner. “Cork need to get a glimpse into what is happening in the top counties and realise what it takes in order to be fighting at that level because it is a professional sport in all but name that is being played now. I don’t know if Cork have quite grasped that nettle yet.”
Those who are likely to take umbrage with this opinion would point to the publication of the recent five-year plan to reboot Cork football. Its key objectives, in their simplest terms, are to improve the standard of football played in Cork, both at club and inter-county level, and to improve football infrastructure in Cork at all levels. A financial planning sub-committee has been put in place to establish the revenue streams which will fund the various positions — project coordinator, high-performance manager and talent identification manager — outlined in the five-year plan. The project coordinator role was advertised last week, so the wheels are moving to return Cork football to full health, but McConville feels remedial action should have been taken far sooner than was the case. It wasn’t today or yesterday, he argues, that Cork football slipped into a deep and unrelenting decline.
“I would welcome the fact that a document has been put together, but that document should be in the fifth year of its implementation, not the first. This slide has been happening for some time. It would be completely unacceptable for Cork to be in Division 3, but, then again, the performances over the last number of years have been completely unacceptable. I welcome that they are addressing the deficiencies that are there, but it looks as if they are going to be addressed from Division 3. It is a lowly place to be. It is a place where you are not going to entice too many players in who may already have question marks over the set-up and whether it is worth their while going in.
“When they really needed a win and their backs were to the wall, they came out fighting against Tipperary a few weeks ago. But that seems to have been short-lived. I expect them to come fighting tooth and nail on Sunday. Will it make any difference? I’m not sure. It is a game I expect Armagh to win.”
McConville was part of an Armagh team which endured league relegation in 2000, but it had little impact on their championship endeavours as correlation between spring and summer was not what it is today. Clare manager Colm Collins doesn’t believe league relegation negatively effects how a team performs during championship, with former Cork footballer Paddy Kelly having argued the opposite last week. McConville is inclined to agree with the latter.
“If you look at Cork’s last number of championship games and look at what has happened in the league over the past few years, where does this Cork team draw that bit of confidence from, where does it draw the belief from? They are down on themselves. Their county, within which there is very little support for them, is down on them.”
One of the few positives from a difficult spring for Cork is that management, one or two positions aside, have settled on their starting 15. Consistency of selection, though, has not been matched by consistency of performance. There was the failure to take anything from the Kildare game at home despite having a man extra for the closing 27 minutes; no score for a 27-minute period of the second half against Meath, another game played on Cork soil, and only one score from play in the closing half an hour against Donegal at Páirc Uí Rinn last Saturday.
When asked, after that Donegal game, what can be done to reverse the slew of defeats, Ronan McCarthy replied: “There is no magic bullet here, no magic wand. There is no magic formula out there to do this. You keep it simple, keep doing the basics well, keep making sure our preparation is right and go up [to Armagh] with the confidence to say that while it is a difficult fixture, we can go there and win it.”
If ever Cork football needed a win, and a break, then it is tomorrow.
Youghal goes green
We’ve all heard of clubs encouraging their players to sweep the dressing-room once they’re done with it, but now one East Cork club is asking its members to ditch the plastic water bottle in favour of a reusable one.
Youghal GAA and its juvenile wing, Eochaill Óg, has signed up to Refill Ireland, an environmental initiative aiming to make Irish towns and cities tap water refill friendly.
Ireland is among the worst offenders in Europe when it comes to plastic waste, with over 60kg being generated per person each year.
Youghal GAA is committed to waning its members of single-use plastic water bottles, the most common item littered on club premises.
“When this initiative was brought to our attention, we didn’t need much convincing that this is a very good idea for both the community and our club. It’s a great privilege to be able to play a small part in influencing young peoples habits around the use of plastics,” said Eochaill Óg chairman Hugh Dorrian.
“I’m delighted Youghal GAA has stepped up to reduce plastic-bottle waste, which ultimately will help to keep Youghal streets, beaches, and water free of waste plastic.” Martha Doyle, of Cork Environmental Forum, said, “People want to help stop plastic pollution, and Refill puts the power in people’s hands to do that.
“We are very proud Youghal GAA is coming onboard and showing itself to be a great community leader in this field to other sports clubs around the country.”