Kerry hold aces in Munster showdown with neighbours

Cork will give provincial football title a rattle but Kingdom have attacking potential to win

Cork defender James Loughrey: “Personally I’ll never forget the Munster final,” he said of last year, “and I’m sure a lot of the boys won’t, but collectively – it was just a game.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork defender James Loughrey: “Personally I’ll never forget the Munster final,” he said of last year, “and I’m sure a lot of the boys won’t, but collectively – it was just a game.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

While this rivalry occasionally produces the unexpected, the trend is clear: Kerry win more often than Cork. That trend hardens in Killarney, where Cork haven’t beaten their neighbours for 20 years, although there have been four draws there in that period.

Cork’s season has been like a recurring nightmare of last year. Having painstakingly and promisingly developed throughout the league, they ended up with a walloping by Dublin – who they had beaten in the divisional fixtures – and rebuilt morale unravelling in time for the championship.

Each league schedule has incorporated a big win over Kerry, with Eamonn Fitzmaurice shaking his head and declaring it a concern, and as spring has once more slid into un-illuminating championship fixtures, Cork are face-to-face with the same situation as last year.

Going in as favourites in the Munster football final in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they were destroyed in a game played entirely on Kerry’s terms.

After a league dedicated to devising and implementing a defensive system, it was a disappointment that it all ended in a rout by Dublin, but such cautious sensibilities will be of more use to Brian Cuthbert’s team on Sunday than the naive set-up of 12 months ago.

It was in the early league that James Loughrey, formerly of Antrim and now of Mallow, pointed out that defensive systems don’t materialise simply by telling 13 people to stay back. A further comment, though, was most resonant.

“Personally I’ll never forget the Munster final,” he said of last year, “and I’m sure a lot of the boys won’t, but collectively – it was just a game.”

Two things can reasonably be deduced. Cork will be more careful this time and there is likely to be a backlash.

Being determined to do something and getting it done are, however, different things. Even when Cork were thrashing Kerry in the league, they struggled to contain Kieran Donaghy at full forward and were cleaned out for a spell by David Moran and Anthony Maher at centrefield until the latter was replaced. In one of the surprise selections Maher starts on the bench this weekend.

Another sees Colm Cooper sitting out the throw-in, but given his lack of match practice over the past 18 months this doesn’t come as a major surprise.

If Cork can mobilise the running and pressing game from Páirc Uí Rinn, orchestrated by Mark Collins, in February they may be able to put pressure on a “gettable” Kerry defence even if Colm O’Neill and Brian Hurley aren’t allowed the same run of the place.

There is a feeling that Fitzmaurice is still considering the cards at his disposal for next month and beyond, and that Cork can give this a serious rattle. But with the bench at Kerry’s disposal and their attacking potential in the front eight, the champions look more likely.

Last meeting: Last year in Páirc Uí Chaoimh Cork were outplayed and out-thought when going down to a James O’Donoghue-inspired Kerry by 0-12 to 0-24.
Odds: Kerry 4/9, Cork 5/2 and 15/2 the draw.
Injuries: Kerry’s Kieran O’Leary is still out with an Achilles tendon injury. Cork are still short John O’Rourke and Ian Maguire.
Suspension: None
Just the ticket: Stand tickets €35 are available only through county boards. Terrace €25. Juveniles €5 in family area. €10 concession available for students and senior citizens.
KERRY: B Kealy; F Fitzgerald, M Ó Sé, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; D Moran. B Sheehan; S O’Brien, J Buckley, D Walsh; B J Keane, K Donaghy (capt), J O’Donoghue. Subs: B Kelly, C Cooper, A Maher, P Geaney, M Griffin, M Geaney, A O’Mahony, D O’Sullivan, T Walsh, J Sherwood, P Murphy.
CORK: K O’Halloran; M Shields, E Cadogan, J Loughrey; B O’Driscoll, B O’Driscoll, S Cronin; A O’Connor, F Goold; P Kerrigan, D O’Connor, K O’Driscoll; C O’Neill, M Collins, B Hurley. Subs: P O’Shea, J O’Sullivan, N Galvin, C Dorman, Tomás Clancy, R Deane, P Kelly, J Hayes, C O’Driscoll, D Goulding, DÓg Hodnett
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).
Verdict: Kerry

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