Climbing Mount Football
After the narrow defeat to Tyrone it may have felt like the end of Cork’s season for some, but right now, all of Cork’s football teams are still in their 2018 championships.
Although they can’t get to an All-Ireland semi-final, the senior footballers still have one game left against Roscommon in Páirc Uí Rinn next Sunday. Even thought neither team can qualify it’s far from meaningless. As far as Cork football fans are concerned, this is a must-win game.
The senior big ball boys have had three losses against three big teams in this year’s championship, but, oddly it doesn’t feel that bad. We wouldn’t say this if we were within 50 metres of Roy ‘win-or-die’ Keane because he’d eat us alive whilst shouting ‘You’re worse than that bluffer Pogba’ in between bites, but all of Cork’s defeats felt like decent moral victories.
Given the apparent never-ending slippery slope that the sport appeared to be on for several years
it seems that we may have finally reached the floor of the Valley of Fail last April.
The wet and muddy sides of Mount Football have been merciless to Cork, and just when we thought we had caught hold of a merciful branch to break our fall, another avalanche of agony broke our tenuous grip, and thrust the county down, down, down over yet another cliff of despair. From those depths the view of the summit was obscured by far too many bands of grey clouds to give us any hope.
If we were to imagine Sliabh na Peile, it could be the mighty Patrick’s Hill towering over the city. With our leaden feet and broken spirit before this year’s championship started, it looked demoralisingly high – like Everest from base camp to a climber with bunions and flip-flops.
And the thing is, we weren’t just looking up at the top of Patrick’s Hill from the bottom of Bridge Street – it felt like we were peering out at it from under Patrick’s Bridge, with just our eyes and noses just above the surface at low tide – our feet touching off bits of rusty trolleys below, our souls being nibbled at by manky mullet.
To even have a chance of attempting to summit Patrick’s Hill we’d first have to work out how to get out of the Lee. And even if you manage that, it’s much harder to run uphill when you’re soaking in humiliation.
And the doubts creep in when passers-by start to stare: The state of you, feen. The bang off ya. Where are you going? Sure, you just got out of the river. Morto, for you, boy. You should give up and go for a pint in Larry Tompkins just over there. If he’d even let you in.
After trouncing Limerick and raising a few eyebrows we were perhaps standing at the equivalent of The Statue on Pana - on level ground and dry, but setting our sights no higher than MacCurtain Street with Kerry to play down the Páirc.
The narrow defeat and hair raising performance in the Munster final along with the subsequent butchering of Laois, projected us unexpectedly up Patrick’s Hill to the junction of Wellington Road: Cork football made it back to base camp.
We know we won’t reach the oxygen deprived latitudes of the top of Patrick’s Hill this year, but the city below looks much better from this height than it did looking up from the slimy waters we were threading in back in April.
Even though we’ve missed this season’s weather window, we made a credible attempt at getting to the summit, but were beaten back by Dublin’s late storm and Tyrone’s bitter northern gale, but a victory and another good performance by Cork this Sunday will make it feel like we can dig in at this height. The risk of another uncontrolled descent has abated.
Defeating Roscommon at home will convince us that that we belong at Super 8 altitude and that we are not just clinging to another random branch sticking out of the a cliff that slid past on the way downhill from the distant glory of 2010. We’re sticking around here, this height.
And if you had any doubts about our ability to cling on, there are reinforcements on the way. Cork’s U20s play Dublin next Saturday in the All-Ireland final in Portlaoise and our minors play Mayo in their semi-final in two weeks time. A win in Portaloise and Páirc Uí Chaoimh this weekend would give us all confidence that the dizzying descent of the last few years has finally come to an end.
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