Rebels’ northern exposure has bonded team, says sharpshooter Kerrigan

All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final
Cork v Roscommon, tomorrow 2pm (Croke Park)

WHEN the draw drum churned out Cork’s set of NFL fixtures this season, the decisive games soon became apparent. Three testing journeys north to Scotstown, Derry and Omagh would be critical in determining Cork’s league fate and also gauge the team’s standing for the season ahead.

Cork had been notoriously bad on the road in the spring in past campaigns but they reversed that trend this year. Monaghan and Derry were both overturned with a point to spare, and while they succumbed to Tyrone, it was a match where they played the best football and the concession of messy goals was their undoing. In recent weeks when Cork embarked on the qualifier circuit, they took inspiration from those early season travels according to Paul Kerrigan.

A Sunday afternoon in Wexford Park with the rain spitting down and a Saturday night in the Gaelic Grounds under the floodlights were tricky tasks, but not insurmountable. He said: “We really enjoyed the league games going up to the north. We’d great bonding sessions and those wins helped improve us as a team.

“I think that kind of experience going away helped us a lot when it came to the qualifiers. When we heard the toss had gone against us for the Limerick game and knew that would be a major advantage for them. But that’s the challenge we had to rise to. That was the thing with the qualifiers, you never knew where you’re going to end up playing week after week.

“It was different and exciting, and we’d to get on with it. But it was a great championship game last weekend. You’d over 10,000 people at it, which is very good for a Cork-Limerick football game, and there was a great atmosphere there.”

The Limerick match followed the pattern of their recent clashes with the Shannonsiders as Cork just got past the finishing line in front after a tough battle.

“We always knew coming up that it was going to be tough”, says Kerrigan. “I think Limerick are easily in the top 10 teams in the country. They showed it again on Saturday night. They seem to have this knack of putting it up to us and they did that again there today. They probably do deserve their time in Croke Park but it just happened that we got the result against them again.”

After a manic few weeks of incessant activity around the country, Cork return to Croke Park tomorrow and a clash with Connacht champions Roscommon. A troublesome hamstring injury flared up on Kerrigan before the Cavan game and left him sidelined that afternoon, but he is now back in buoyant form.

“My own injury has cleared up thank God. I was hoping to get back for the Cavan game but it was probably a week too early.

“I pulled up in a training session a couple weeks before with the hamstring problem. It was probably the first game I missed through injury in my life so it was very disappointing.

“The lads have produced a couple of good results though.

“I got on the next week against Wexford and that was great. We were very deflated after the Kerry loss but once the qualifiers came around, we were back in full flow.

“It’s the fourth week on the trot that we played and we had extra-time as well last Saturday, so it’s bound to take it out on fellas. But it’s great to be in it and we’re looking forward to it.”


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