Cork senior administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan has welcomed the GAA’s decision to schedule the county’s hurling and football qualifier clashes on one bill this Saturday.
The Cork County Board, after consultation with football manager Peadar Healy and his backroom team, informed Croke Park of their willingness to concede home advantage for their game with Limerick so as to guarantee the Cork hurling and football teams were not lining out at separate venues on the same day.
The Cork-Limerick second round football qualifier clash, having originally been signposted for Páirc Uí Rinn, will now form the first leg of a triple-header at Semple Stadium; 3pm is the throw-in for the football, the second round hurling qualifier involving Cork and Wexford is down for a 5pm start, with Limerick and Clare getting underway at 7pm.
O’Donovan believes common sense has prevailed as it would have been unfair to expect Cork and Limerick supporters to pay entry to Páirc Uí Rinn for the football and then head up the road to Thurles later that day for the hurling.
Thurles has proven a fruitless hunting ground for the footballers in recent times as their last two championship outings - last month’s Munster semi-final against Tipperary and last year’s qualifier against Kildare - were both played in Semple Stadium and both ended in defeat.
“We have probably got the best package that was out there,” said O’Donovan.
“The two games at the one venue suits us. The alternative was worse. You would have been splitting resources were the games at separate venues. You also would have been making it very awkward for supporters.
“We spoke with Limerick and it was agreed the next time we meet in the qualifiers that Cork will have home advantage. They didn’t protest at the game not being played in Páirc Uí Rinn as their hurlers are also in action in Thurles.”
Not since 2008 have Cork played championship in both codes at the one venue on the same day and O’Donovan called on Rebel supporters to make the journey to Thurles.
“You saw how important the Cork support was on Saturday. It is an extremely important day for both teams; the hurlers are looking to drive on after kick-starting their summer last Saturday, while the footballers are looking to restart their summer after losing to Tipperary in the football. Hopefully, there will be a big contingent up there.”
Meanwhile, Clare’s David McInerney insists the race to claim the All-Ireland hurling title remains wide open with the eventual champions every bit as likely to emerge through the back door. McInerney was part of a Clare team that took just that route three years ago, recovering their stride in the qualifiers after a Munster Championship exit to take the ultimate honours in September.
A comprehensive defeat of Laois in Ennis marked the first step on that journey in 2013 and Davy Fitzgerald’s side put their latest provincial disappointment behind them last weekend with an even heavier dismissal of the midlanders at Cusack Park.
Their reward for that win was confirmed yesterday morning with the open draw for the second round of All-Ireland qualifiers pitting Clare against Limerick.
“Any team that’s left in the championship now can win it,” said McInerney. “It’s pretty wide open. The matches (on Sunday) were good. Galway and Kilkenny are two good teams, but I think you could see a winner coming from the qualifiers just as easy.” Of the four in yesterday’s draw, Clare look best positioned to make a stab at going all the way, though they will first have to account for neighbours whom they know well from the cross-pollination down the years in school and college.
It isn’t much more than 12 months since Limerick ousted Clare from Munster and, while Wexford was likely the side everyone privately wanted, McInerney was holding to the line that there were no gimmes in the pot.
“It’s do or die hurling now and there’s no back doors,” he reasoned yesterday. “There’s only one way you can go so a game against your local neighbours and rivals is something to look forward to.”
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