Kerry can’t know how good they are because not a single Cork player showed up last Sunday

When the euphoria abates, Eamonn Fitzmaurice would have liked a closer game

Nobody expected what happened in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday. Well, no one except Bomber Liston. He knew all along, but just kept it to himself until afterwards.

The league hammering in Tralee back in April spooked a few people. Nobody minds losing the odd league game, even the odd league game against Cork. But to get a tanking is unacceptable. Even though they were doing a lot of work at the time, a beating like that doesn't just get brushed off. We'll yerra plenty of stuff in Kerry, but not a hiding from Cork.

A result like that is fuel for talk – and Kerry is the last place where people need help talking about their football team. One bad performance like that takes on a life of its own. Drastic stuff fills the talk. Where are we going to go with this Kerry team? Where are the fellas coming through? Will we have a team at all for the next 10 years?

This happens from time to time. Everyone has an opinion, plenty people have five or six of them. They’ll have one for outside Mass, they’ll have one for the pub later on, they’ll have one for the car on the way to the match. It’s a big job just to keep track of them all.

Stories grow legs. Rumours sprout like mushrooms. Especially since they closed the door to training. So-and-so isn’t going well. My man gave your man a clip. They’re playing 18 on 15. Whatever. It all amounts to nothing in the end anyway.

I was chatting to Weeshie Fogarty after the game on Sunday and now Weeshie would have led the charge against closing the gates for training. Weeshie would have been going to Kerry training his lifetime so this was a big change and he wasn’t one bit happy about it. He talked about it plenty of times on Radio Kerry and if someone wanted to ring to complain about it, Weeshie never turned down their microphone.

“D’you know Darragh,” says he . “Maybe Fitzy is right after all. Maybe they were right to close the gates. These fellas are after playing so well, you know.”

It was as if he was trying to convince me! I hadn’t the heart to tell him that if anyone had ever asked me when I was playing, I’d have had the doors to training closed years ago.

The road home from Cork was good fun. The north Kerry crowd would all head home via Rockchapel and Kanturk whereas the rest of us go across the Cork and Kerry mountains and our last stop before we go across the border would always be Ballyvourney.

Great Gaeltacht area

We stopped at The Mills there last Sunday, a great big Kerry crowd just checking in to see that everybody was in good form. It’d be shame to go on away home without going in to beat the chest a small bit. Ballyvourney is one of the Gaeltacht areas of Cork so it wasn’t long before a fella in a Cork jersey came over to remark on the amount of green and gold he could see.

“An stopadh sibh anseo dár gcailleadh sibh an cluiche?” he asked with a big smile. He knew damn well there wouldn’t have been half the crowd if Cork had won.

There’s definitely an element of the Kerry public and Kerry psyche that judges a player on how he performed against Cork. I’ve heard plenty of judgements on a player tip along nicely until somebody chimes in with, “But how will he get on against Cork?”

If it’s thought he’d do well, then agreement will follow shortly afterwards that he’d be worth a look come August and September. That’s what Cork are to Kerry – and, I presume, what Kerry are to Cork – a yardstick to measure how fellas will do once they find themselves in Croke Park.

After a game like this though, the yardstick isn’t so good. You come away with a false measurement. You worry about what it means. Why were Cork so bad? Why did none of them – not a single one – turn up?

One of the worst days Kerry football had when I was involved was the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final against Meath. We got torched, beat out the gate, beat out past the M50; lost by 15 points. But even on that day, bad as it was, Séamus Moynihan was outstanding, Eamonn Fitzmaurice played well, Mike Frank Russell was very good. The rest of us had an appalling day but those three guys did what they were supposed to do.

Shocking Cork display

That’s what is making Kerry people that small bit uncomfortable after Sunday. No Cork player did what he was supposed to do. None of them played well. You could play that game another 10 times and Kerry wouldn’t win by as many again. Once the buzz of Sunday wears off, you’d rather win a close game and get a better idea of where you are.

It’s beyond belief how bad Cork were. Any game you go into as a player, you divide up into what you can control and what you can’t. You can’t control how skilful you are. Or how quick you are. Or how far you can kick the ball or how it will bounce or where it will break. You have to go into games realising that certain things are out of your hands.

Once you do that, you have a responsibility to make sure that the things you can control are done to the very last drop. You can control how hard you work. You can control your intensity. You can control your discipline (some of us could, some of us couldn’t). These things are down to you and your approach to the game.

Cork people can give out all they like about Brian Cuthbert and there is no doubt that he was too passive on the line. But which players worked as hard as they could work? Who brought the greatest intensity that they could bring? Who was disciplined in what they did?

Straight away before throw-in, Thomas Clancy started flaking away at Declan O'Sullivan. Eoin Cadogan and Michael Shields did the same with Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue so it was obviously a pre-planned thing.

Now, Clancy is a fine young footballer and this was his first start in a Munster final so you wouldn’t be too hard on him. But he’ll have to learn a bit about choosing his battles.

Because if I was a Cork defender looking to start flaking a Kerry forward before a game to try and rattle him, I’d get a fair way down the list before I came to Declan O’Sullivan’s name. Talk about poking the bear. Declan loves that sort of carry-on.

Defenders have been belting away at him since he was 16 and I often think he nearly needs it sometimes to get the best out of it. He’s a spiky character who has been the best player in his club since he was a teenager so is well used to it. It was brainless stuff out of Cork.

O’Sullivan’s performance

There was a point in the second half where Declan went for the ball with two Cork fellas and he beat them to it and burst out through them. Kerry were a mile ahead by this stage and he had his work done. Nobody was going to walk out of the stadium saying that Declan O’Sullivan had anything less than a great game whether he won that ball or not.

Yet he beat the two boys to it and ploughed through them. Where was their belting then? Where was their physicality when it really mattered? Why was nobody going in there and at least getting himself booked? Making a stand, telling his team-mates he was not going to put up with any more of this?

This is the stuff they have control over, even when they’re eight or nine points behind. And they didn’t want to know. No leaders. No fighters. Bullied all over the pitch. That’s just unacceptable.

Kerry were very good on Sunday and Fitzy had every angle covered. They didn’t drop their guard at any stage, to the point where it reminded me a bit of the game against Dublin in 2009.

Declan had a free late on out on the sideline that nobody would have begrudged him having a go at.

But it would have been playing to the crowd and that wasn’t the mood Kerry were in.

Leadership qualities He played a short one to Donnchadh Walsh who kicked it over the bar. That’s a team that’s tuned in. That’s leadership.

Kerry had it. Cork had not. We’d all be a good bit wiser about what the rest of the year has in store if they had. Kerry are gone from 12 to 1 to 9 to 2 for the All-Ireland, a ridiculous price on the back of one win over a team who didn’t turn up.

But sure Bomber says he knew all along. Probably got the 12 to 1 as well, the hoor.