How can Cork get in the way tomorrow and shock Kerry?
I vividly remember the last time Kerry and Cork met in the championship and neither side had a back door or a cross stick to ease the blow of their defeat.
Although it has been twenty years since Kerry beat Cork in the last game between them under the old system, the memories of that game in Killarney came to me slowly this week. If there was any chance that the day would be forgotten, the pictures in front of me were out in many newspapers during the week.
Sometimes a better understanding of today ‘s game comes from these camouflages on the trail of ideas but in this case our business seems to be cold trying to make a connection between yesterday and today.
The way the game is played is different these days. Trunk Killarney is not the same as the rare audience tomorrow in Cork. The current position of the two counties is different and, above all, the mild summer weather of 2000 is very different from the cold and skinning of tomorrow. By 4 o’clock tomorrow the Lee will be blown away by the players, unhindered by the audience, journalists, photographers and storytellers.
There has been a lot of talk over the last few weeks about the weather and the track it will leave on this year’s championship but if you think it’s not worth talking about, just look at last week’s Eoghain Bán Gallagher wreck that blew wind Eoghain when they seemed to be failing.
Like every championship won to date, the strongest panel in the country will win the All-Ireland title this year. In addition, over the next six weeks will be the day with the most willing to shake hands and the least negligent in the basics of play such as switching and handling the dog.
If you are to be faithful to the evidence that has been put before us by these two teams for some time, you must be of the opinion that the day will be with Kerry tomorrow. Cork have not beaten Kerry in 2012 in the championship and until last year ‘s championship match between them, Kerry won by an average of eleven points in the clashes between the teams.
No matter how insignificant, no matter how old-fashioned we are, the Kerry man (especially my own pupil) can never admit that Cork could face a proper stalemate when the teams meet. It may be a remnant of Cork ‘s dominant era in the late 1980s and into the mid – 1990s.
It may be related to the trivial sub-round that Cork manages to outperform Kerry – 1999, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2012, for example. Or perhaps there is a sense that this domination cannot continue forever and that sooner or later the red jerseys must have a cursed speach.
We caught that mine in last year’s Munster final but I wonder if it’s enough to build courage and confidence a year and a half later?
Despite the small lease of hope they have received from a great year with junior and under-20 teams last year and the resilience of the senior team, evidence, truth and facts are always hard to avoid. Kerry won Division 1 of the league a fortnight ago and although Cork have nefariously escaped Division 3, they did not need to answer any hard questions or make a sharp soul examination in that move.
How, then, can Cork get into the fray tomorrow and shock Kerry?
From what I have seen of Winter Kerry, I am appalled that many aspects of their play have improved. That does not leave them unscathed. David Moran and whoever accompanies him will get plenty from Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon and Ruairí Deane. If Cork are mature on the sidelines, and I think they are, they will put one or two others into the middle of the field to beat Kerry here.
Is that why Mark Keane, a man who will not be lured twenty – one to March, will be lured back from Australia for tomorrow? What about Paul Walsh, a man who had a hard time at the end of the summer with his Kanturk society? There is no limit to the courage of youth and Cork would have hoped that the likes of Walsh and Keane could go fearlessly into the midst of the hurricane in the middle of the field.
Verbal action required but how to create those conditions? The weather will do just that but the extra energy and hustle and bustle must come from the players themselves.Seán Powter and Mattie Taylor will do their part to test Kerry on the counter – attack but can they get enough possession to make the necessary robbery?
The last time they met at O’Keefe’s Park, Cork were just under half their attempts on scores compared to Kerry who had not wasted as many as one attempt in the first half. Cork conceded twenty-seven free kicks compared to eleven for Kerry in the same game.
Those details are weakening for Cork and last year they had a bad habit of urging the same decision with referee Anthony Nolan. I am confident that the lessons have been learned and will be greatly improved in this area. If not, we will have the same result again and again.