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Ronan McCarthy admits Cork promotion ‘anti-climatic’ given the uncertainty around Championship 2020

Cork football manager Ronan McCarthy described their promotion as “anti-climactic” after his team hammered Louth on Saturday evening, given the uncertainty about the GAA season at present.

“I just said to (county chair) Tracey Kennedy that it’s very anti-climactic, to be honest. It’s job done and done well, but there’s so much uncertainty for everyone now that it’s hard to know what to make of it.

“You’d have to be very doubtful about it now and I don’t envy the GAA hierarchy, they’re in a very difficult situation. The games mean so much to people, people want them, but yet you have to ask yourself the question about the risk involved.

“No matter what call they make here they’re not going to make the right call, so I don’t envy them.”

McCarthy praised his team for a successful season so far: “All I said to the players was well done – we’ve come a long way since the Armagh game last year, when we won a great game in very difficult circumstances away from home.

“On 70 minutes we were in Division 2, on 72 we were gone, we nearly did a Houdini act and got out . . . we went on from there, we had great momentum through the summer, the Super 8s, and then earlier this year in Division 3.

“All I said ‘we can look forward to next Tuesday night’, we can’t look too far forward – nobody can. 

“Regardless of what happens, we did it ourselves, we got ourselves promoted, and that’s all we could do.

“There were very good aspects to our game, we got some very good scores from out the field, and any time you get five goals is good.

“The nature of the job is that you always look at what you can improve on. We gave away a lot of poor frees, cheap frees from late tackles and so on, poor fouls – not showing our hands in the tackle, stuff we’ve been working on.

“You look at the positives of getting 5-19 but we conceded 0-16, and a lot of it of our own making.

“But it was also our first game. A lot of teams have played challenge games but we haven’t, our championship in Cork went on longer than most counties, so it was our first game back, we were going into the unknown a bit.

“A lot of players were out, we used a lot of new players, so overall it was a worthwhile exercise building into next week.”

If Cork’s last Division 3 game of the season against Longford next week goes ahead, McCarthy plans to work in some training for his side as well: “We haven’t made a decision on how we’re going, but we’ll probably have to travel separately. We’ll probably stay overnight in Johnstown in Meath, so we’ll make the most of that in preparation for the championship, we’ll try to get up there early and do some work. That’s the beauty of qualifying with a week in hand, we can use the weekend to get some time into players, to prepare for the championship.”

Saturday’s game had its own challenges, said McCarthy.

“The game today – we left the players have their pre-match meal at home themselves and then they came down here for 2.30.

“If we met at 1pm what would we have been doing for the next few hours? They can’t be together, they can’t be indoors, so we made the decision to let them eat at home, and it worked out fine.”

The Cork boss would have favoured playing out the league at neutral venues, he added.

“In terms of games, we probably should have gone for neutral venues but I can see the point of view of Croke Park, that five of the games have been played home and away, so finishing with neutral venues – the problem was that they were open to appeal if some team fell short of promotion by a point or whatever.

“I think if counties could have signed up not to appeal outcomes then it should have been done, it’d lessen travel. It seems practical to me but for some reason it couldn’t be done.”

The Corkman acknowledged the issues of smaller counties such as Leitrim, who couldn’t field a side against Down this weekend.

“We were getting our own job done, but to be fair to the likes of Leitrim and Louth, smaller counties . . . I referred to our strength in depth, but we also have a large pick and these counties don’t.

“We had 12-13 players not available to us today, but they’ll be back. If you take 12-13 players out of Leitrim or another small county they won’t have the sheer numbers of a Cork or a Dublin or a bigger county.”

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