Ever since Graham Canty got his hands round the Sam Maguire in 2010 in Croke Park after that emphatic victory over Down in the All – Ireland Final, Cork have struggled to rediscover the form that brought seven All – Ireland Titles to the Rebel County. With the dominance of Kerry in Munster over the past number of years in Munster, Cork has been on the end of numerous defeats in the Munster Final, including last year’s 17-point deficit to Kerry, relegation to Division 2.
Ronan McCarthy has revitalised his squad over the past months bringing in fresh, young talent that Cork have missed over the current years. With a good opening campaign in the McGrath Cup under their belt this year, losing narrowly by a goal to Clare in the Final, McCarthy will be eyeing up two League points to set their campaign off to a good start. Cork will make the trip to Brewster Park this Sunday to take on Rory Gallagher’s Fermanagh who are also desperate to get their season off on a positive note as well.
Fermanagh have not really regained the same form that they had last year with the highlight of the year for Erne supporters seeing Eoin Donnelly rise highest to fist the ball past the outstretched arms of Rory Beggan to secure their place in the Ulster Final for their first time in ten years. While Donegal’s ‘young guns’ got the better of Fermanagh in Clones, the Ernemen didn’t give up going on a good Championship run in the “back door” exiting the Championship to Kildare.
In the opening McKenna Cup Group Games, Fermanagh seemingly struggled with the introduction of the “New Rules” with Erne Boss, Rory Gallagher calling the rules into contention. Thankfully, for Fermanagh, Rory and the Supporters, this weekend’s action will not involve the new rules with Congress recently voting against their introduction for the National League. A draw against Ulster University and two consecutive defeats against Derry and Tyrone would not be looked on as a successful start to the season by many Erne supporters but for Gallagher, it has given him the opportunity to unearth new talent, with Darragh McGurn, Jonathan Cassidy and Ultan Kelm all rising to first team ranks following good performances for their respective clubs in the past League and Championship.
Fermanagh will be boosted by the return of several key players who were unavailable for the majority of the McKenna Cup. All – Star nominated Full – Back Che Cullen will be back available for contention against the Rebels after being absent for work commitments for the McKenna Cup. It is expected that Ederney brothers, Paul and Declan McCusker will be available for selection, along with Ruairí Corrigan who was side-lined with injury for the opening competition. Skipper Eoin Donnelly has recovered well and could line out against the Rebels along with Derrygonnelly Harps veteran defender, Michael Jones.
Ronan McCarthy has named a mixed Cork side, with young talent mixed with hardened experience with the likes of Tom Clancy resuming his role at Centre Half – Back and Brian Hurley back from injury taking up his position at Full Forward. Cork will be hoping that sharp – shooter, Luke Connolly will be back in good form with the game against Fermanagh his debut of the year.
With both teams desperate to get their league campaigns off to a positive start with two points, a tense encounter is expected. A tactical battle between Gallagher and McCarthy. Youth against Youth. Talent against Talent. Fermanagh to edge it.
By Mark Mc Goldrick