National Football League Division Two
Cork v Down
Sunday, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 1pm
By Shaun Casey
DOWN are beginning to run out of ‘do or die’ and ‘must win’ matches, but it’s no exaggeration to say that this is possibly the county’s biggest game since the 2010 All-Ireland final.
Circumstances have changed dramatically in those 12 years, but somewhat ironically, it’s James McCartan who’s back in charge, plotting the downfall of Cork once again.
It didn’t work out all those seasons ago, but the Mourne men will hope they can turn the tables this weekend.
In all likelihood, one of these footballing powerhouses, if not both, won’t be entering the run for the Sam Maguire trophy – unless they make unexpected runs to their provincial finals.
Down have such a proud footballing tradition and reached the pinnacle in the ‘60s and the ‘90s but have been way off the pace in 2022.
Likewise, Cork have failed to build on the momentum of beating Kerry in the Munster Championship two years ago and have struggled to find any true identity.
The two sides share 12 All-Ireland titles between them, but now scramble at the bottom of Division Two, clinching to the All-Ireland competition by their fingertips. The Tailteann Cup looms large for the loser, but there are no guarantees for the winners either.
Also under new management, with Keith Ricken taking charge of the side this year, the Rebels have yet to pick up a win.
Ricken guided the Cork u-20s to Munster glory last season while Down also tasted provincial success at that age group under Conor Laverty and Marty Clarke.
It’s too early to be calling upon those youngsters to bring instant success but the hope would be that along with the winning mentality the Kilcoo boys will take into the squad, fortunes could change for McCartan’s side.
Niall Kane and Ryan McEvoy were the only members of the All-Ireland club champions to feature in the previous round as injury has ruled out the likes of Jerome Johnston.
Down were unlucky not to earn their first win of the season last weekend when they hosted John Maughan’s Offaly.
The Faithful county tagged on the last four scores of the game to edge through by the minimum and pick up two valuable points.
That lifts them from the bottom of the table, above Cork and Down, but both teams can still catch Offaly in the race to stay in the division.
It’s a big game, it’s a big two points and home advantage may just swing it for Cork. But Down folk will hope they can gain revenge for 12 years ago and bring some positivity back to the county.
READ MORE – Who will win the Sam Maguire later this season. Click here…