Eoin O’Neill: Donegal pose ‘formidable challenge’ to Cork

Cork football selector Eoin O’Neill has welcomed their fourth round draw against Donegal and believes the “formidable challenge” posed by the northerners will provide the perfect litmus test for Cork.

The pair will meet in Croke Park on Saturday week (throw-in 4pm) in the opening game of a fourth round double-header, with Mayo and Westmeath squaring off at 6pm.

Defeated Leinster and Ulster finalists, Westmeath and Donegal, provided potential opposition in yesterday morning’s round 4B draw and O’Neill accepts Cork drew the short straw.

“They are the proven team over the last couple of years, in terms of the draw that was out there. They are probably the toughest draw,” said O’Neill. “That is the challenge in front of us. We look forward to taking these guys on and it is going to be a very big game for both teams.

“When you get to this stage of the championship you have to be expecting to meet teams of such calibre. It is where we want to be. We have had two tricky fixtures the last two fixtures. We showed a bit of guts on Saturday to get over the last one. We will have to show even more for this one.

“Our guys are up for it. Our guys are working very hard. Bring it on.”

The sides’ recent league meetings, according to O’Neill, will carry little relevance on Saturday week, but he claims the Cork players will have learned from those spring clashes in terms of how best to penetrate Donegal’s defensive wall — Donegal enjoyed a 2-14 to 1-7 win when the sides clashed in Ballyshannon in early February.

“We didn’t have a very good league outing against them this year. But I think when you play the likes of Donegal and the way they play, the more you actually play them, the more you understand them. Every time you play a system like that you learn a little more. That does inform your preparation.

“We watched the Ulster final on Sunday and Donegal were very unlucky. They present a formidable challenge.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground. We are after getting a little bit of momentum ourselves. Hopefully, we will bring that into training for the next two weeks and prepare as best we can.”

The Cork football management have a clear run ahead of the clash, with the County Board postponing all club games involving Cork panellists provisionally fixed for this weekend.

Meanwhile, Tipperary manager Liam Kearns is demanding answers from GAA fixtures chiefs after the Premier County were fixed to play Derry at an Ulster venue in next Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC round 4A qualifier.

Kearns estimates Tipperary will have to travel at least an hour further than Derry for the tie at Kingspan Breffni Park in Cavan (throw-in 5pm).

And he also believes Derry have an unfair advantage in that they beat Cavan at the same venue in last Saturday’s qualifier clash.

“I don’t know what the rationale was for choosing the venue. It’s a lovely pitch but it’s not a neutral venue and there are disparate travelling times for both teams,” he said.

“Some of our guys would need four hours to get from Tipperary to Cavan, while some of the Derry lads could make it in an hour and a half. “We went in looking for Galway or Tullamore.

“We might not have expected to get either of those venues but we didn’t expect Breffni Park.”

In the other 4A clash, Clare meet Roscommon at Pearse Stadium on Saturday (3pm).


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