Cork Knock Kerry Out Cold
What a difference a week makes for Cork sports fans. Last Thursday this column was little more than a reading of the sorrowful mysteries with a sprinkling of belief that the weekend would surely bring redemption for the Rebels.
Maybe your mind has blocked it out: our hurlers had been bate comfortably by Waterford, Cork City FC had been relegated and sold by fans, and there had been no Corkman permitted to start against France to save Ireland in Paris.
By Saturday evening, 2020 was starting to look up. Cork’s hurlers came bouncing back against Dublin, Cork ladies footballers beat Kerry by a goal (scored by the incredible Saoirse Noonan who plays soccer for the Republic of Ireland) and for feelgood bonus points covid numbers for Leeside sunk to 25 on Saturday and it emerged that the nuclear codes will finally be taken off The Orange Bluffer.
The best was yet to come as Saturday turned to Sunday as the Rebel footballers devastated the Kingdom with a late late goal in a soggy slugfest down the Páirc, dumping Kerry out of the 2020 championship.
The PROC sports forum and other social media had a ‘LOLfest’ after the match with photographs of Pat Spillane’s newspaper column from last Sunday and the sub-headline which read “I don’t give Cork a prayer against Kerry” being passed around like the buck in the Kerry dressing room at full time.
“Shrillane” seems to be keeping his beak shut since the final whistle like most of his fellow county men - the rumour is that Cork football’s biggest critic is hiding out with Fungi who has been on the missing list for some time – maybe the misfortunate dolphin could sense what was coming down the track for Kerry. If they find him maybe they should put him in charge next year - he could give them some, ahem, porpoise.
Of course, we can now add Kerry’s forwards and midfield to that missing list too - the red wave that never materialised in Pennsylvania, turned up in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
As a Cork fan you couldn’t be happier for Ronan McCarthy and his team. They’ve been through the ringer in recent times and last season we saw more than a glimmer of hope that the footballing descent we’d been riding was starting to bottom out.
The few faded Kerry flags hanging from windows along College Road, Bandon Road and Glasheen Road last weekend (known as “Little Kirry” among Glasheenonians) had all disappeared by time Tomás Ó Sé’s cranky head appeared on the Sunday Game.
Like a half-deflated birthday balloon, he wearily huffed and puffed his way through half-arsed reasons why Kerry lost - doing his best to avoid Des Cahill’s insistence that the main one was simply, Cork.
Watching an opinionated Kerryman writhing in the excruciating discomfort of a championship exit at the hands of Cork was nearly as much craic as watching The Orange Man squirming at The White House a few days earlier after being defeated by a late surge from his opponent who he and all his supporters had completely written off.
Whether lawyers for the Kingdom will attempt to overturn Cork’s victory in the courts is still unknown. If they’re going to move they’d want to do so quickly. There’s just ten days to go to Cork’s inauguration as Munster football champions.
Aside from all the fairytale stuff, like Seán Powter’s dramatic return to action, Luke Connolly’s sublime point scoring and Mark Keane’s wonder-goal, the real joy among Cork fans was our teams’ relentless never-say-die attitude form start to finish.
This missing ingredient is what Rebel supporters have been asking of their football and hurling heroes in the long drawn out build up to this year’s championship. We finally got it from the hurlers on Saturday against the Dubs in Thurles and boy did we get it from the footballers on Sunday.
Skilful players have never really been in short supply on Leeside. What we’ve been looking for is that half-possessed Duracell-bunny insanity that sees players working like demented dogs for an entire match. Last weekend we saw three Cork teams never giving their opponents a second to spare on the ball. They wore down their opponents by always being in their faces, regularly forcing them into errors and disrupting their flow.
That manic work rate has seen other, less skilful counties, win All-Ireland’s in both codes over the last two decades. Cork fans have been feeling for quite some time that if our football and hurling heroes could combine that frenzied endeavour with their natural skill, then Sam and Liam are there for the taking.
This year is being described as the year everyone will want to forget for obvious reasons, but while The Double is still on, Cork GAA fans can’t rule it out that 2020 might yet become the best year ever!