McCarthy strikes the right note while Keane notes the strike rate
Cork balance regret at losing with vastly improved display as Kerry look to improve
Cork’s Kevin O’Donovan, Seán White and Liam O’Donovan show their dejection at the final whistle of Saturday’s Munster SFC Final against Kerry at Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Ronan McCarthy wasn’t struggling for words but to strike the right note. His Cork team have been reeling from one mortification to another over the past 12 months – huge championship defeats, a ground-breaking relegation to Division Three – but on Saturday night they rediscovered themselves by exerting real pressure on Kerry and going down by just a score.
“If I say that that’s fine, I’m saying that it’s almost okay to lose the game,” he mused. “We came up believing we would win the game and have fallen short.
“You lose a game – I’ll give an example: the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry, which Kerry lost. Even though they were beaten, they played with real honour.
“I felt our lads played with real honour tonight and spirit, but we have to regroup, learn from our mistakes, look forward to another big challenge. I’m sure we’re going to get another bumper team in the qualifiers but I’m looking forward to that.”
His Kerry counterpart Peter Keane was filing his first senior championship title but with it, sundry caveats as to how vulnerable they looked when Cork came at them. Three goals went in but concerns also extended to at least the same number that didn’t and, which on another day, could well.
“What did they get – 3-10? It was 13 scores to 20 and you’d think from that that you’d be happy but just the goal-scoring opportunities – we’ve got to stop them. If you look at some of them, particularly in the first half, they were opportunities that came from us not killing the ball above and they had an overlap coming against us.
“Some of the opportunities that they didn’t get off were because we recovered and got bodies in the way. You would have to praise that part of it too.”
For a young team, though, they showed mettle in that most testing of environments – a match you’re supposed to be winning that veers off-script.
“As you mentioned,” continued Keane, “there was 18,000 people but by Christ there was plenty of shouting going on for Cork at that stage and you could feel the momentum with them.
“We had five fellas playing in their first Munster final and I don’t know the numbers, I don’t know how many of them played in their first Munster final last year. So we’ve a very, very young team and for them to react and respond like that was very pleasing.”
Kerry move on to another crack at the Super 8s, while Cork, as McCarthy acknowledged, can head for the final round of the qualifiers with a new confidence that they too can make it to Broadway.
“The key thing in that is whoever we get in the draw we feel we’ll have the capability of beating them. But we’ll have to gather ourselves again, get back in Monday for recovery, be back in Tuesday. We will have regrets; that’s part of the learning process but if we learn from that, I think we’ll be a handful for anyone, whoever we get in the qualifiers.”