Cork a danger but hard not to see them swept away by new blue wave
Jim Gavin’s side favoured to win All-Ireland senior football championship quarter-final at Croke Park
The Dublin team gather in front of Hill 16. They will be hoping to give their fans plenty to cheer about in tonight’s All-Ireland senior football championship quarter-final against Cork in Croke Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
There have been better football championships, plenty of them, in fact. These are oily enough concepts at the best of times but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone taking to the barricades in defence of the quality of the football summer.
London and Monaghan have told entertaining stories but you won’t need to go beyond the fingers of one hand to count the quality games. Down v Derry in Ulster. Longford v Wexford and Westmeath v Fermanagh in the qualifiers. Kerry v Cork, at a push.
Yet almost despite itself, the championship tumbles out on to the quarter-final stage this weekend with about as solid a final eight as you could hope for.
Everybody’s top six at the start of the summer is present and correct for the weekend the summer properly starts.
All it needs is for the remaining games to live up to somewhere close to their billing and there will be some hurried revision of verdicts on the 2013 championship.
A weekend that will leave bodies in its wake sees Dublin and Cork meet tonight in the first loser-go-home clash of the year between presumed contenders.
If that framing feels a little generous to Conor Counihan’s side, it’s only because there is little doubt Cork possess the playing squad to challenge for the title in a year where there is no outstanding candidate.
That they haven’t put it all together yet – and indeed haven’t for a while – is no guarantee they won’t.
They could yet be the stopped clock whose bell chimes at just the right moment. Against most sides, Cork are still a team whose assets exceed their liabilities.
Even deprived of the services of the luckless Colm O’Neill, they have kept their scoring tallies at a remarkably high level. In 31 championship matches since Counihan took over in 2008, they’ve averaged 19.7 points per game.
Take out the annual trimmings they hand out in Munster and only include Kerry matches, qualifiers and the All-Ireland series, and they still average 18.3 points each time they play.
Even their average tally in defeat – 15.2 points – is well above par. Just for comparison, Dublin’s average score in defeat over the same period is 13.5. Kerry’s is 13.1.
All of which is a roundabout way of pointing out that although Dublin are obvious favourites tonight, Cork, with all their flaws, are still likely to present them with a pretty high bar to jump.