Stricker Colm O’Neill believes his Cork team deserves more credit as they chase a third successive National League crown.
The Rebels were too strong for Down in Sunday’s Croke Park NFL semifinal and will now meet Mayo in the league decider.
“In fairness, we have been in three and a Division Two final before that. There is great credit due to the team,” said O’Neill after the Mayo win.
“I think sometimes we don’t get the credit they deserve. People forget that. That is a great record to get to four league finals in a row. Hopefully, we can finish it off now.
“The league is a very important competition for us. If you were knocked out after the regulation rounds there would be a big gap to championship so it prepares you very well for championship.”
Just over 11,000 fans watched the NFL semifinal double header at Croke Park on Sunday, and Cork forward Paul Kerrigan admitted the occasion was bizarre.
“You don’t really think about it to be honest but it was a bit surreal. But we’re here to do a job and we don’t that thankfully,” said Kerrigan after the eight point win over Down.
“It was a bit different compared to one of the last times we played up here but it was an enjoyable win for us from a forwards point of view, there was nice scoring.
“There was probably a bit too much space and you won’t get that come championship. It wasn’t a game free of cynicism and blanket defenses so it was enjoyable.
“We had a good win a couple of weeks ago against Mayo and we’re looking forward to playing them again. They are a real contender now so we’ll have huge test. They had a great win here today. We’re really looking forward to it as it’ll be a big challenge again for us.”
Mayo finally ended their Kerry hoodoo with an extra-time win over the Kingdom in Sunday’s NFL semifinal at Croke Park, but manager James Horan refused to get over-excited by the result.
“Monkeys on backs or whatever don’t interest me,” insisted Horan afterwards. “We just want to do the simple things and stick to our game plan whether it’s against Kerry or anyone else. Things worked for us this time.
“We kept at it and tried to stick to our game plan and if stuff didn’t work we tried to change it.
“We were lucky in the end maybe to get one or two of the goals, but we were probably unlucky not to get a penalty or two along the way as well.
“All in all, we are delighted at sneaking it in the end. Any time you come to Croke Park and win games it builds confidence.”
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor was able to take positives out of the Mayo defeat ahead of this summer’s championship.
He told RTE.ie, “We are disappointed we didn’t win the game. We thought we had it won twice. We were four points up with time virtually up in normal time and we gave away a very bad goal.
“We thought in extra-time we had it won and we gave away another goal. We’re disappointed but overall it has been a very good league for us.
“It has been very positive. Today’s game and a half was good for us as well. The league allowed us the opportunity to look at a few more option and in general it has been very good for us because we tried out a lot of players.
“I’ve been impressed with Mayo for the last three or four games. They have played really well. If nothing but for their determination they deserved their win today.”
Dublin and Galway must meet again in the NHL Division 1A playoff after extra time failed to split the sides in Tullamore last Sunday.
“It looked like we had it won,” said Dubs boss Anthony Daly. “We were three points up going into injury-time and gave away three scores. Fair play to Galway, they never throw in the towel. Joe Canning looked sloppy early on, looked rusty, but class is class -- you can’t take it off fellas.”
Galway boss Anthony Cunningham has welcomed the extra-game.
“It’s as good as a month’s training for us, sets us up for the championship. We’d have been disappointed to lose, but with five minutes to go in normal time it wasn’t looking too good for us. A great fight-back, great character shown by this young and we’d be very happy with that,” he said.
“We’re also looking for the Galway supporters to get in behind this young team. It’s not going to be all plain sailing and we’re only a couple of months into it. We’re very happy with the young players out there today.”
Dublin will be without Ryan O’Dwyer and Alan McCrabbe for Sunday’s replay in Portlaoise after they were both sent off in the drawn game, much to the annoyance of manager Daly.
He added, “Some of the decisions were just hard to believe, fellas with the hurley wrapped around them after catching a high ball and play on.
“Where’s your advantage? I just think somebody needs to sit down and have a look at this thing.”
Brilliant forward Steven McDonnell has called time on his career with the Armagh footballers.
McDonnell tweeted, “After 13 years of playing football with Armagh at county level I have decided that the time is right for me to retire at this level and move on.
“I want to thank all the managers and players that I played alongside and made some great friendships along the way. I also want to thank all the supporters from Armagh that supported throughout and the supporters from all over Ireland that respected what Armagh done in this time.”
Former Armagh boss Joe Kernan said, “I’m sorry to see him go. He owed nothing and Armagh wouldn’t have had the success without him.
“He knows best. He has a wife and four kids and it was a pleasure dealing with him. For a fella so slight, he had two of the best hands in the game and was a great finisher.”
Current Armagh boss Paddy O’Rourke said, “Stephen has been a superb player. He has been very good for me in my time at Armagh. I respect his decision to go, if he feels it is time for him to retire.”
Sean Boylan looks certain to return as manager of the Meath team after the County Board recommended clubs vote to remove the current incumbent Seamus McEnaney and replace him with the All-Ireland winner.
A meeting was due to take place in Navan on Wednesday night when clubs were expected to return Boylan to the post.
The Meath players met on Monday when they voted in support of McEnaney but their recent relegation to Division Three of the NFL has seen supporters lose patience with Monaghan man McEnaney.
Delegates voted to amend the “square ball” rule in football at last Saturday’s GAA congress in Laois. Under the new rule, a player may enter the small square before the ball is delivered in open play. In set play, the old rule continues to apply, meaning a player is not allowed to enter the square before the ball arrives . . .
TERRY Hyland has taken over as manager of the Cavan senior football team after the resignation of Val Andrews last week. Anthony Forde, a former team captain, is to take over as trainer . . .
WEXFORD preserved their Division 1B National Hurling League status when they annihilated Leinster rivals Laois in Sunday’s relegation playoff . . .
TYRONE boss Mickey Harte expects to have Martin Penrose and Joe McMahon fit for the Division Two NFL final against Kildare on Sunday, April 29 . . .
DUBLN full-back Tomas Brady is on course to play in the championship this season as he continues his recovery from a cruciate knee injury . .
INJURED Galway footballer Michael Meehan continued his comeback when he played for his club side Caltra last weekend . . .
TIPPERARY will have to plan without injured captain Paul Curran for Sunday’s NHL semifinal against Cork in Thurles . . .
LIMERICK youngster Declan Hannon looks set to miss the championship opener against Tipperary with a groin injury.