Cork’s Ian Maguire: ‘There is no panic in the squad... we are getting momentum at the right time’

The Rebel’s have managed to climb back from the cliff edge with three wins on the bounce securing Division Two football for next year

It hasn’t quite been the league campaign the Cork footballers were hoping for, but there is a sense now on Leeside that they have at least stepped back from the cliff edge.

Three wins on the bounce has Cork sitting fourth in Division Two in advance of next weekend’s final round of fixtures. They have secured their status in the second tier of league football for another season, this recent run of form dragging the Rebels out of the relegation mire – something Kildare were unable to manage.

And Sam Maguire football is now more likely than unlikely in 2024, too. There might yet be some twists and turns in that particular permutations puzzle though – Meath ended up in the Tailteann Cup after finishing sixth in Division Two last year – so John Cleary’s Cork will be conscious of that in advance of hosting Armagh in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday.

Ian Maguire, Cork’s influential marauding midfielder, admits the opening weeks of the league were challenging but says the players were always confident of turning their season around.


“The big thing with Cork is there are expectations, no doubt about that,” Maguire says. “From a Cork football perspective there are big aspirations. I know with our form at the start of the league, three losses, there comes a bit of outside noise and pressure.

“Obviously there’s the whole Sam Maguire-Tailteann cup element to the league, but we were cancelling that noise out and focusing on a game by game basis.

“The start of the league was frustrating but three wins on the trot has given us momentum going into the end of the league and ahead of the championship.”

Cork went on a warm weather training camp to Portugal between the Kildare and Meath fixtures, and the benefit of that was evident in the final quarter of Saturday’s win over the Royals in Navan as the visitors scored the last seven points of the contest.

But Maguire believes the character displayed by Cork in recent weeks to dig their way out of the relegation zone comes down to desire and pride as much as anything else.

“It’s a big topic in the GAA about how much commitment and effort goes in, but look, it’s an amateur sport and a community sport, volunteerism, the big thing is the love of the game.

“I love representing Cork, I love my club and love going out training and I’m speaking for every one of the lads, you put your shoulder to the wheel, you love the commitment and you are willing to die out there for the result.

“Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and I probably know that better than most from the last couple of years, but again I thought fellas showed their love and passion for the jersey, especially in the last 10 minutes [against Meath] and that captures what it is all about.

“There is a professionalism creeping in, in terms of the commitment, but the love is always there and that’s the foundation of the GAA.”

Cork’s response on Saturday to Mathew Costello’s 54th minute goal – which put Meath three in front – was emphatic. Cork outscored Meath 0-8 to 0-1 over the remainder of the game, it was a whirlwind finish which secured their Division Two status.

“When Costello’s goal went in, I suppose it was squeaky bum time,” says Maguire. “There has been huge resilience in the squad over the last 18 months really drilled in by John. And again I thought we stuck to the process and finished strong.”

Cork’s predicament with regards playing in the All-Ireland series this summer has been complicated by the fact they would play Kerry in a Munster semi-final, should the Rebels first overcome Limerick.

With the likes of Kildare, Louth and Clare all having the benefit of a more manageable pathway to a provincial final, Cork’s best hopes of avoiding the Tailteann Cup have always appeared to be in finishing as high up the Division Two table as possible.

At the outset of the campaign the group would have targeted promotion as a realistic goal, but while that ambition unravelled early on, Maguire says there were no alarm bells blaring in the dressingroom.

“From our own perspective there is a macro and micro level to this,” he says.

“We had big ambitions in Division Two but we take it game by game and, win or lose, you have to tog out seven days later, so you take it from an analytical point of view of what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong and try get it right for the next game.

“So we will go back training during the week again and there will be a couple of negatives in terms of goal chances and fouls in key areas to work on and hopefully we can get that right.

“That has been the message from John and from Kevin Walsh and all the management team, picking out the good and the bad and trying to put it all together for the next game.

“There is no panic in the squad, we have three wins on the trot but as we said after three losses, just focus on the next game. Armagh is a big challenge, we are really looking forward to it and we are getting momentum at the right time.”