Cork ran out easy eight point winners (1-17 to 0-20) of Sunday’s National Football League final against Mayo at Croke Park, but winning manager Conor Counihan refused to read anything into the result afterwards.
Mayo failed once again to shine at headquarters, and Counihan saw that as a major factor in his team’s victory.
He insisted, “The reality is Mayo were not at their best. If they were you could take an awful lot more out of the performance, the fact that they weren’t takes from it.
“We have work to do. How many league winners have won an All-Ireland? The reality is that teams that win the league invariably don’t perform in the All-Ireland.
“Now I’m not saying we are going to do that. But we need our players to play more consistently well in the championship. We have had periods in games where we have dropped out and let teams back into it so we have an awful lot of work to do. We wouldn’t be under any illusions there.”
Mayo boss John O’Mahony tried to put a positive spin on the defeat and said, “We’ll put our hands up for today’s performance but they won’t put their hands up for the last 40 or 50 years of performances here.
“That’s the fairness of it. Looking at it, it wasn’t an intense game. It didn’t have the championship fervor about it but I’d have to say the better team won. Cork were able to up it at most stages when it was crucial.”
Forward Alan Dillon admitted afterwards that Mayo simply failed to perform yet again at Croke Park, but still tried to take consolation from the league efforts.
“I think the whole way the league ended is disappointing but on that game itself you can’t write off the whole league as being a total negative,” said Dillon
“We played some good football. At the end of the day it’s Sligo in the championship in five weeks’ time that we are looking towards.”
Cork meanwhile expect John Miskella to resume training in the next few weeks after a groin injury kept him out of Sunday’s game.
ARMAGH boss Paddy O’Rourke masterminded his team’s NFL Division Two win (0-17 to 1-12) over his native Down at Croke Park on Sunday, but took little personal satisfaction from the result.
The All-Ireland winner with Down admitted, “I would always have mixed emotions when Down are the opposition. I didn’t get any pleasure in going into the Down dressing room and seeing young fellas I have managed at Under 21 and senior level and it doesn’t do me any good to go in and see them with their heads down.
“As I said to them, today wasn’t really about a Division Two title, it was about two teams getting ready for the championship.”
All-Star Ronan Clarke missed the Armagh win on Sunday with an ankle injury and is now a doubt for the Ulster SFC clash with Derry in two weeks.
Captain Ambrose Rogers and Daniel McCartan are both now doubtful for Down’s Ulster SFC clash with Donegal on May 30th.
Goalkeeper Brian Scanlon was an unlikely hero with a point from a late 45 as Limerick beat Waterford in Saturday night’s NFL Division Four final at Croke Park.
Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan praised Scanlon’s kick, then warned his players to keep their feet on the ground.
“We have to treat it like another game ahead of the championship -- we can’t lose the run of ourselves,” he said.
“There is just one game in town for us - it is either Waterford or Clare in the first round of the Munster championship.”
Waterford boss John Owens was proud of his players after their narrow defeat and said, “With a couple of minutes to go, we were very much in it so it was very disappointing to lose.
“Somebody said to me that it’s a bonus getting to Croke Park but there’s no bonus inside there, those boys are very disappointed. That’s the first time I’ve seen that in our dressing room this year.
“But they’ve done brilliantly to get promotion and they’re a great bunch of lads. It’s been a very positive league. It’s a credit to them, they kept coming back today when things were going against them.”
Former Galway midfielder Kevin Walsh was the toast of Sligo after coaching them to the NFL Division Three title in Saturday night’s 0-19 to 1-11 Croke Park win over Antrim.
Sligo captain Charlie Harrison led the praise for Walsh and said, “Kevin Walsh came down two years ago from Galway when we were in the depths of Division 4 and he has now brought us up to Division 2.
“It’s always a tough battle with Antrim. It’s the fourth time in two years that we have met and this was yet another fast-tempo game.”
Antrim boss Liam Bradley paid tribute to Sligo’s hunger and said, “Basically, we were beaten by a far superior team on the day. Sligo came out of the blocks, we didn’t. In the first half, we were completely overrun. Defensively we were very poor.
“Middle of the field, we were cleaned out, albeit Brendan Herron was a big loss to us. Basically, we were just cleaned out all over the pitch for the first 35 minutes.”
BRIAN Murphy is expected to get the nod at full-back in place of the injured Eoin Cadogan when Cork meet Galway in Sunday night’s NHL final in Thurles. Galway’s only injury worry concerns forward Niall Healy . . .
MICK O’Dwyer has backed his native Kerry to win this year’s All-Ireland football championship. “I think one team can do it -- Kerry,” said O’Dwyer . . .
TYRONE defender Ryan McMenamin has suffered another ankle injury on club duty, but fellow veteran Brian Dooher has returned to training with the county squad . . .
BERNARD Brogan is a major doubt for Dublin’s Leinster Championship opener against Wexford in June after picking up a knee injury on club duty over the weekend . . .
KERRY defender Tomas O Se is to undergo a scan on a knee injury picked up while playing for his club An Ghaeltacht last Saturday night . . .
MICK Foley has resumed training with the Kildare football squad, but Kevin O’Neill has reportedly quit ahead of the Leinster SFC campaign . . .
PADDY McGrath is a fitness worry for Donegal ahead of their All-Ireland under-21 FC final date with Dublin in Cavan this Saturday . . .
PAT Flanagan has been appointed manager of the Westmeath senior football team until the end of the season . . .
FORMER Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan has again refuted all talk of a return to inter-county football.