Mark Collins admits there was more on the line for the Cork footballers going to Longford on Saturday than just a qualifier win.
“I think in the first half there you could see we played with a small bit of fear. We knew coming up here for a lot of us our Cork careers were on the line a small bit. We hadn’t performed in a lot of big games in the last couple of years and we really had a point to prove to ourselves.
“We had let ourselves down big time in matches against Kildare last year and Tipp this year. Today was a big one. We knew we’d have no-one up here only family and friends and we had a big chance to show a bit of bottle and thank God we got through it.”
Collins, just like captain Paul Kerrigan, was aware just how many people were dismissing Cork’s chance of beating Longford. “You try and stay away from articles but you hear it and there was a good few writing us off and tipping Longford, which was probably understandable because we played so poor in a few matches over the last couple of years.
“You don’t know what team is going to show up but thank God we showed a bit of balls and a bit of mettle and we got out of it.”
At the same time, the Castlehaven man says what’s motivating the players is not expressing to others what they’re capable of but showing themselves than they are good enough to compete further in the championship “It’s not proving people wrong but proving to ourselves that we’re good enough. Deep down, we know we’ve had plenty of success at under-age and at club level and colleges and we so it’s proving it to ourselves more than anything.”
Croke Park and Donegal beckon for Cork on Saturday week, the county’s first championship game there since the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo. It’s only two years but for Cork it’s been a long time coming.
“We’re back to where we want to be,” stated Collins. “We’ll probably be underdogs the next day and totally written off again but we know there is plenty of potential inside in that dressing room and if we can perform to our best who knows where we can go.”
As for the impact of the Cork bench in Longford where Pa Kelly and Colm O’Neill excelled, Collins is glad that supporters are getting to see just how competitive the set-up is. “I’m telling you, there are A versus B games in Cork and there are 30-35 guys every bit as good as the 15 fellas playing.
“There is nobody guaranteed a place in the first 15 and they showed it. Colm may have been disappointed not starting today, showed his mettle.
“The same with Pa – he hasn’t got a lot of game-time over the last couple of years but he showed what he’s made of as well.”
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