GAA Football

Cork can effectively seal escape from Division Three with victory over Derry

Rory Gallagher's Derry have bounced back from a disappointing start to their League campaign with victories over Tipperary and Louth. They face an acid test of their ambitions tomorrow, however, against runaway Division Three leaders Cork. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

Allianz National Football League Division Three: Cork v Derry (tomorrow, 2pm, Pairc Ui Chaoimh)

ONE more win ought to do it for Cork – and the Rebels will be going all out to effectively seal their return to Division Two when they welcome promotion chasing Derry to Pairc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow.

With a scoring difference of +22 from four wins thus far, Ronan McCarthy’s men have led from the front all along and, despite some dodgy moments against Munster rivals Tipperary last weekend, should finish the job tomorrow.

“We’re fairly sure 10 will get us up,” said the Rebels boss.

“Down didn’t get up last year on 10, they were caught on the last day on scoring difference, but with the remaining fixtures I think if we get 10 we’ll be up.

“This time last year we had one point from eight after four games, it’s not a nice place to be and we’re certainly not going top take for granted the fact we’re in a much more positive position now.”

The Oak Leafs remain right in the hunt, but how they must be rueing that opening day draw with Leitrim in Celtic Park, as well as the two points left behind in Newry when they were the better side for much of the game against Down.

Rory Gallagher’s side have recovered well from those early setbacks though, posting impressive back-to-back wins over Tipperary and Louth to leave themselves in third place.

Next weekend’s home date with Longford looks like being the one that will make or break their campaign, but if they were to come home with anything from the long trip to Cork they would be sitting pretty heading towards the final straight.

In the wake of victory over the Wee County, Gallagher voiced his concern that Derry had been too over-reliant on free-scoring forward Shane McGuigan.

The Rebels will be well aware of the threat posed by the Slaughtneil man, and know that if they can limit his impact on the scoreboard it will leave them in the box seat against an Oak Leafs outfit not overburdened with other scoring options.

It was confirmed earlier this week that Enda Lynn will return from his cruciate nightmare in time for the Championship – how Derry could be doing with the Greenlough dynamo for these crunch League game.

Gallagher’s side will sit deep and try to frustrate Cork by forcing turnovers before working their way methodically into scoring positions. Confidence can be taken from the success Tipperary managed with similar tactics, the Premier having led by five points on three separate occasions before a third quarter purple patch gave the Rebels some breathing room.

Even when they did move four ahead, however, Cork struggled to get across the line, especially after Ciaran Sheehan was black carded with six minutes to go.

McCarthy has made make five changes in personnel from that game, starting Anthony Casey in goals, with Maurice Shanley at full-back getting his first outing of the year. He could be tasked with contained McGuigan.

Liam O’Donovan also starts in a re-shaped defence which has Sean Powter at centre-back and Tomás Clancy in the corner, while veteran Paul Kerrigan comes into the full-forward line alongside Damien Gore and Luke Connolly - scorer of two goals in Thurles.

Where they struggled with Tipp last week, Cork did manage to find away around Down’s defensive set-up when they visited Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Having come up against Gallagher’s Fermanagh in Division Two last year, McCarthy knows what to expect tomorrow.

“Rory Gallagher is a highly experienced manager.

“People underestimate the job he did with Fermanagh, they were very close to promotion to Division One last year – some of the purists out there might have issues about the way he sets up his team, that’s up to them.

“Derry are in a phase of rebuilding, he’s made them hard to beat and from the games I’ve seen they’re well able to kick scores as well. A manager can be labelled a certain way, and Rory Gallagher’s probably a victim of that at certain times.”

Cork: A Casey; T Clancy, M Shanley, P Ring; L O’Donovan, S Powter, M Taylor; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; J O’Rourke, S White, B Hartnett; P Kerrigan, L Connolly, D Gore

Derry: O Lynch; P McGrogan, B Rogers, C McWilliams; S Downey, C McKaigue, N Keenan; C McFaul, P Cassidy; E Bradley, N Loughlin, D Tallon; B Heron S McGuigan, N Toner

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