Kerry and Cork clash once again in Killarney

July 2nd, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Next Sunday's Munster final appears to be really challenging the minds of supporters, followers and especially the pundits who delight in forecasting the winner when these two age old rivals clash. In fact I have yet to hear anyone and indeed I include myself here, who will come out strongly and confidently cast their vote to one side or the other. It promises to be a fascinating battle between two counties who simply crave to get back on their winning ways following defeats in their recent Croke Park championship appearances. What can one read in to the fact that Kerry have failed to last the pace in the past three years as Down, Dublin and Donegal proved too good in Croke Park and while Cork were champions in 2010 by just one point over Down they too failed to get the better of Donegal in last year semi-final.  So both sides were found wanting when push came to shove in their visits to championship action in Dublin.

We have learned absolutely nothing about both sides following their Munster games. However if you are one for the statistics and figures which are all the rage to day then in the scoring stakes Kerry have rattled up 6-40 in their meetings with Waterford and Tipperary, while the Rebels have notched up 4-37 against Limerick and Clare trained by the ageless Mick o Dwyer who were arguably the best of the four so called weaker counties. Fifteen Kerry men have shared the scores between them in those games and nine Cork men got their names on the scoring sheets. Irrelevant you may well say and it probably is, nevertheless great prominence has been given to the fact that Colm Cooper has played Kerry's two championship games at centre forward and while the opposition was of course of the very weak variety his influence on the play was the one standing out feature of these two wins.

And maybe its here that the answer lies as to who might avoid the so called back door and delay meeting the more fancied counties in the play off's.  If Colm can influence the flow of Kerry possession bringing his team mates into play with his defence splitting precision foot passing as he has being doing then the Kerry forwards, in particular Donaghy, o Donoghue, Galvin and o Sullivan can register the vital scores on a far from brilliant Cork rear guard. And talking about the Cork defence the former Antrim player James Loughrey was their star defender against Clare, he will I suspect have the unenviable task of marking Cooper and I am told that at a recent Cork fitness test he came out on top.  So this dual will in itself be fascination.

At the time of scripting this I don't have the luxury of knowing Eamonn Fitzmaurice's starting fifteen or the Cork line up but I will be greatly surprised as will every Kerry follower I suspect if Johnny Buckley and Anthony Maher don't jump for the throw in and on form these two men are more than capable of at least breaking even with Pearce o Neill and whoever partners him. In fact for consistency in both league and championship Buckley has been Kerrys stand out man. And then we have the intriguing battle between the Kerry defence and Connor Counihan's free scoring forwards. In any mans language Fintan Gould, Brian Hurley, Paddy Kelly, Paul Kerrigan and the strong very speedy Brian Hurley are class players and the Kerry defenders will have their first real test since the Donegal game last year. The loss of that great warrior Aidan o. Mahoney will have the selectors burning the mid night oil. Will they go for safety first at full back with Marc o Se or place their faith in the very promising Marc Griffin. In hind sight Eamonn Fitzmaurice might well believe that the young St Michaels/Foilmore man should have at least got an hour at number three between the two previous championships games.

Of course both county's league form in completely immaterial and I strongly suspect  Connor Counihan intentionally and on purpose set out to just survive in division one, keep his cards close to his chest and after winning three league titles in a row prepare his men for this one game. And on the other hand and this bears out what I have said in relation to the difficulty in correctly picking a winner Kerry did exactly the same. Eamon Fitzmaurice had just come on board and he like his Cork counterpart over saw his side's worse league crusade for many years. So both counties with poor league performances, both with facile wins in Munster, both with superb scoring forwards and both failing to Donegal last year and finally of vital importance both with highly experienced, first class men sitting on the bench ready for battle. So no advantage there for either side. The continued Fitzgerald Stadium lock out for better or for worse has deprived us of judging for the first time ever since the fifties for a Munster final what shape the boys are in. No doubt both counties will finalize their sides on form shown behind closed doors or should I say closed gates. Is Darren o Sullivan flying in training? Will he get in before James o Donoghue, how is Owen Brosnan going following his spate of injuries, will he start? Will it be Peter Crowley or Fionn Fitzgerald?  Will we have an ultra defence, all the rage thirteen men behind the ball spectacle? Let's hope not.

It's all part of what makes a Kerry/Cork Munster final so special. It never loses its attraction and wonderful appeal. For me there is no greater sight outside an All ireland football final with Kerry involved than the sight and tumultuous sounds as the team's race on to the green sward of Fitzgerald Stadium.  The view from the superb press box is simply stunning. There is nothing like it anywhere in the whole world. The majestic McGillicuddy Reeks towering over Killarney town in the background. When fortunate to be present on rare hazy summers day that setting  is even more spectacular. And then on those ever so frequent rainy days the vista changes again and the view of the mist and clouds settling on the mountain peaks with maybe a rainbow arching across the sky is amazing. So if you are positioned on the Michael o Connor Terrace next Sunday take time out and savor the incredible panorama stretching before you, you wont be sorry. And finally who will capture the Munster Cup the cup with no name? Well Kerry has not lost a championship match here since 1995, they have the best natural ball players in the thirty two counties, I go with a home win, but we will learn exactly where the Kingdom are at the moment.

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