Cork and Roscommon staring down possibility of a final dead rubber clash
Victories for Dublin and Tyrone would seal their semi-final place with a game to go
Ronan McCarthy: “Tyrone are an experienced side, but we need to learn quickly, and we will learn quickly.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
“No, none whatsoever, I hadn’t even thought about it until it was mentioned there.”
Ronan McCarthy’s response to his Cork team facing Tyrone in their next Super 8s game – one year on from a 16-point defeat in the round four qualifiers – is both truthful and telling at the same time.
No way was McCarthy looking past All-Ireland champions Dublin on Saturday night, only the 13-point loss effectively leaves them needing something against Tyrone back in Croke Park this Saturday (5pm).
Tyrone handled Roscommon with four points to spare in their opening game and another defeat for Cork to Mickey Harte’s side would effectively rule out any hopes of the Rebels making the semi-final.
Roscommon also come to Croke Park on Saturday evening to face Dublin (7pm) and defeat for them would leave the Connacht champions facing the same dead rubber contest in the last round.
“I think any objective analyst will say we’re in different shape to where we last year,” said the Cork manager, reflecting further on the 3-20 to 0-13 defeat to Tyrone last July, Cork’s four scorers also significantly outnumbered by Tyrone’s 10 – after which McCarthy declared unmistakably that “things had to change”.
“It doesn’t make the task any easier, Tyrone are an experienced side, but we need to learn quickly, and we will learn quickly. Look, your best chance is to win the game in front of you. Dublin was the first game in front of you. There’s not much point in looking ahead to the next game, to see what opportunity you might have there.”
Among the positives that McCarthy drew from that defeat to Dublin – where they were outscored 3-3 to 0-3 in the last 10 minutes – was that Cork still produced 1-17 of their own, from 10 different scorers. Getting the first run-out on Croke Park may also offer some marginal advantage over Tyrone.
“Small margins perhaps. It all helps, but you come up to win the game on its merits. There’s no point in waiting until next year. If I was to be critical of the team, I would say we’re just a small bit naïve still. But the more we play the top teams, the more we learn from it.”
A second defeat for bother Cork and Roscommon would also leave Dublin and Tyrone to play out a dead rubber of their own in the last game in Healy Park in Omagh, on the August Bank Holiday weekend, or at least nothing more than an exercise in shadow boxing ahead of what might possibly come next in the semi-final and beyond.
Roscommon meanwhile did make some notable progress against Tyrone, given they lost by 18 points in the Super 8s meeting a year ago, but still face that prospect of going into their last game with nothing left to play for.
Last year, they played Dublin in their last game, losing 4-24 to 2-16, manager Anthony Cunningham accepting after the Tyrone game his side “just have to get better”.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling quarter-final results have now confirmed the line-up and scheduling of the semi-finals later this month.
All-Ireland champions Limerick will face Kilkenny on the Saturday evening in Croke Park, July 27th, with a 6pm throw-in; the All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final between Limerick and the quarter-final winner will be the curtain raiser at 4pm
On the Sunday July 28th, the second semi-final between Wexford and Tipperary is also now set for Croke Park (3.30pm), with the All-Ireland MHC semi-final between Wexford and quarter-final winner the curtain-raiser.