Kerry leave a trail of devastation in Cork during the Munster Final

July 8th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

The demolition teams will move into Pairc Ui Chaoimh in a few week time to tear down this unique old structure which has witnessed some thrilling Munster finals since it first opened its big red gates away back in 1976. However to the utter consternation and total shock of Cork football followers and its team a Kerry demolition squad lead by Eamon Fitzmaurice paid a very unexpected visit to the banks of the Lee last Sunday and when their days work was done and having walked away they left a trail of utter devastation and a proud sporting county stunned and literally flattened. This was Kerry football at its glorious best. It was the near perfect performance. Whatever happens for the rest of the year let's just sit back and marvel at what we witnessed last Sunday? Last week here in this little column I gave the nod to Kerry, not by any means expecting such a massive victory, but a win nevertheless.(I recall a 4-8 to 0-4 Munster final win in the old Athletics Grounds in 1962).

Now I based my prediction on one single element of the Kerry set up. The manager Eamon Fitzmaurice. I still marvel at the way he and his back room team prepared his side for that epic All Ireland semi-final against Dublin last year and despite our dismal league run I was utterly convinced that now in his greatest test since then he would once again produce something very special. And he did. This stunning performance was born out of a number of factors. Superb fitness due to the expertise of Moorefield's Cian o Neill. The tactical awareness of Fitzmaurice aided by the genius and experience of Mickey Sheehy. Let's not forget both men are literally steeped in the traditions and knowledge of Munster finals and how they can be won and lost.

Side line experience is the one vital ingredient necessary to achieve major success.  Between them they have played in twenty five Munster finals and have a combined total of twenty one wins. Old heads on old shoulders, side line understanding and awareness handed down from generation to generation. And indeed the very same goes for our two other victorious managers last week, Stephen Wallace who guided his Junior side to victory and Jack o Connor who once again produced what I would describe as a wonderfully typical o Connor winning team, drilled to near perfection. Three managers devoting their lives to Kerry football, a credit to all.

The near perfect display last Sunday. A goalkeeper, soundness personified, who produced one of the most acrobatic saves which would do justice to a performer in Duffy's Circus, dramatic stuff by the Killarney man. A World Cup goalie crashing to the ground from a height like Brian Kelly would have stayed down and demand immediate medical attention.  And six backs coached to perfection in the art of marking their men. Dr Eamon o Sullivan the legendary Kerry trainer preached the gospel of the three Cs, close, continuous coverage, but without fouling. Beautiful to watch, great concentrating, the twisting, turning, disciplined play of the Kerry defenders, "don't let your man get inside you". Mid field domination, all the breaking ball so vital in today's game been swept up by the swift alert Kerry men, a sure sign of a team tuned to perfection. And the forwards, devastating, running into the open spaces all day long. Dr Eamon's teachings again, "occupy the open spaces". Old teachings as relevant to day as was 70 years ago. Running on to the beautifully pass, not once did they have to catch a ball over their heads, always the ball popped just in front of the man, skills honed to perfection.

The Kerry side line men won the tactical battle as the say hands down. Declan o Sullivan, Donnchada Walsh, Brian Sheehan all working back crowding and frustrating the Cork attackers and at the other end Cork left oceans of green space for the Kerry men. And boy did James o Donoghue, Johnny Buckley and Paul Geaney go to town, as did the rest of the lads. It was indeed a salutary lesson for Cork boss Cuthbert and his mentors. Out gunned and out thought both on and off the field. That word again experience. Have I have I been too lavish in my praise of this Kerry win, well credit where credit is due. Tomorrow is another day and the quarter final in Croke Park another game, but this Munster title was achieved with class, grace, abundance of skill and most importantly of all, in true Kerry style. And by the way the black card rule has been a blessing for Kerry forwards.

My Radio Kerry activities necessitated remaining in the Pairc Ui Chaoimh until it was almost deserted. I wandered for the last time through the now deserted notorious tunnel. I had been there for the opening in 1976 and the memories came flooding back, great games, great names, victories and defeats, in hail, rain and indeed snow, in charge of the whistle for many games there, working with the exemplary Liam Higgins (RIP) in Radio Kerry commentaries.

 I walked through the big red gates on to the beautifully manicure pitch and stood for a few minutes. Silent and deserted now except for the tormented screeching of a few hungry sea gulls as they ducked and dived looking for scraps. And it was as if I could visualize the ghosts of all the great players who had graced this sod over the last 38 years but more poignantly those legendary Cork and Kerry players who have gone to their eternal reward. Tom Creedon, Colman o Rourke, John Kerins, Paidi o Se, Tim Kennelly, Seamus Coughlan and John Egan. It was as if this particular squad of 2014 men had wanted to leave their special mark on the old stadium as a tribute to those gone before. Paidi, Tim and John must surly have shared a pint "somewhere" and reminisced on their memorable victory that opening day in 1976 and expressed deep satisfaction with The Kingdoms very last appearance in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.  

Fogra: Our sympathy's to the wife and relations of the late P J Fitzpatrick of St Mary's Caherceiveen who died recently. PJ played with the Kerry under 21s scoring three goals in one game and in 1966 he was corner forward as Kerry lost to Cork, 2-7 to 1-7 in that years Munster final. He emigrated to London that same year and in 1969 starred as London beat Wicklow in the All Ireland Junior final.  Very fittingly a minutes silence in his honor was observed before the final last Sunday in Cork.

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