With the Cork match now just over four days away, it’s worth having a look at our past record against them, seeing as it’s our first encounter with them since early 2007, at which point in time my results archive was just an idea that hadn’t gone anywhere. Now that it spans a full sixty-one years, it’s easy to do a quick sweep back over the decades to see how we measure up against the Rebels, which is what I propose to do now.
As the table below shows, our record against the Donkey Ayters isn’t all that bad but this is only where it relates to the NFL. We’ve met them seventeen times in all between 1951 and our most recent clash back in 2007, with thirteen of these games taking place in the NFL. We’ve a 7-6 lead over them in league encounters and on Sunday we’re aiming to make it four wins a row against them, a run which admittedly only began after seven straight defeats to the Rebels, a losing streak that began on All-Ireland final day in 1989 and then went on for several years until we finally overcame them in a league match in Ballina in February 2005.
Our okay record against them in the NFL contrasts sharply with how we’ve fared against them in the championship where it’s been one-way traffic in their direction. Four matches, four defeats – one an All-Ireland final we were well capable of winning against an edgy, self-doubting Cork team that had lost the previous two finals to Meath, one a semi-final thrashing that constituted the worst defeat we’ve ever suffered in Croke Park. We’ve lost to them twice in the championship since then as well, flattering to deceive in the 1999 semi-final and then putting up a less than wholehearted challenge to the then Munster champions when we came through the qualifiers to meet them in the 2002 quarter-final.
We’ve only played them twice in Páirc Uí Chaoimh down the years (it’s a ground I’ve never been to but I plan to put that to rights on Sunday) but this is partly because Cork have used Páirc Uí Rinn as their home venue for league games in recent years. They walloped us by ten points the last time we played them at Páirc Uí Chaoimh back in March 1986 but we fought back well to nick a one-point win when we last played them in Páirc Uí Rinn, in March 2007.
One interesting fact from our list of past clashes with the Rebels is that we’ve never drawn a game with them. There’s plenty of guff being spoken about both sides playing for a draw next Sunday but, unlike last year’s final NFL match with Tyrone, I can’t see how there’s any incentive for the two sets of protagonists to aim for such an outcome. Last year, a draw suited both Mayo and Tyrone but, while we’d be happy to see it ending in stalemate, Cork have nothing to gain from this kind of result. I’d expect both teams to go hammer and tongs for a win on Sunday and, regardless of what the bookies may think, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to extend our winning run against them when we face off at Páirc Uí Chaoimh the next day.