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  • Sport

Kerry are not Donegal and there will be spaces for the Cork runners to exploit

Friday, 5th July, 2013 4:00pm
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Kerry are not Donegal and there will be spaces for the Cork runners to exploit

REBEL VIEW By John Hayes

THE recent good weather in this part of the world has Cork and Kerry followers looking forward to Killarney and this year’s Munster football final in the hope of an occasion to savour for both sets of supporters this coming Sunday.

If the weather Gods oblige, then football aficionados will be hopeful of a game to finally ignite the championship interest in the southerly province.

Killarney and Thurles are always the favoured venues for Cork supporters and the town of the lakes will be thronged with supporters of both sides this Sunday afternoon, and the Saturday night before it!

The cakewalks that have preceded Sunday’s meeting of the country’s biggest rivals – I’m not having any argument on that one – have done little to capture the imagination, and it is up to Sunday’s showdown to redeem a desperately poor Munster football championship.

Admittedly, it was pretty much ever thus.

Revamps to the All-Ireland structure have received much airtime lately and it is this columnist’s ardent opinion that changes are long overdue.

The introduction of the qualifiers has irrevocably diluted the prestige and significance of the provincial championships and I believe it is time to review the All-Ireland championship in its entirety.

The landslide victories for Tyrone and Armagh illustrate that the backdoor has proved a false dawn for the lesser lights and merely served as a cushion for the stronger teams to avail of the alternative route to Croke Park.

Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, both Cork and Kerry will still be in the championship come Monday morning and both are likely to grace the quarter-finals again, at the very least.

Jewel

Ok, let’s dispense with negativity and focus on the game in hand. All things considered, Cork versus Kerry in Killarney is still a jewel in the summer’s sporting crown and retains its lustre when other provincial deciders are losing theirs.

There is not a better backdrop for football in the country and Fitzgerald Stadium always feels like a real football ground.

The lush grass and tight confines have hosted some great battles between these old foes and here’s hoping that Sunday will be another humdinger to add to the list.

Cork have not tasted success in Killarney since 1995, yet the recent clashes in Kingdom territory have seen little to choose between the sides. Four draws have been played out since 2002 at the Killarney venue.

I have a fancy for Cork to finally end this particular hoodoo on Sunday.

It is precisely because of this long wait for success on enemy ground that I believe the greater edge may be with Cork for this game, allied with an eagerness to atone for two seasons of stalled momentum since the 2010 All-Ireland success.

A number of players on this Cork panel have been around since 2006 when we drew a game we should have won before winning the replay.

Further draws in 2009 and 2010 followed before Cork, as All-Ireland champions, were turned over in 2011. I know that the experienced players will be chomping at the bit to lay down a marker this weekend.

Much has been made of our previous travails against Kerry in Croke Park, yet the streak of not winning in Killarney is another millstone around Cork’s neck that the players are more than ready to remove.

Of course, Kerry are justifiably proud of the same record and those in green and gold won’t be giving this one up easy. Many have been quick to dismiss Kerry’s chances but would do well to remember that they have been within a kick of the ball against the All-Ireland championship in the last two seasons.

Marquee

They also retain a handful of the game’s marquee footballers, who have proven their quality time and again. Those are among the reasons why this game, as a standalone fixture, retains so much appeal.

When Cork and Kerry collide, for 70 minutes at least, tomorrow doesn’t matter.

While I have attributed the slighter edge in motivation to the Cork men, we have to also look at the other deciding factors for this game, namely the quality of personnel available to both teams and the tactical battle on the sideline.

I will be accused of sitting on the fence but I believe the teams to be evenly matched on the field.

Cork have the greater strength in depth (Walsh, Sheehan, O’Connor, O’Leary, Clancy and Collins all subs against Clare) and are ostensibly the more physical, fitter and possibly faster unit.

Kerry, for their part, will rely on the football class and experience of Cooper, Declan O’Sullivan, Galvin, Donaghy and the Ó Sé’s for their inspiration.

The loss of Aidan O’Mahony is a big one as I feel his physicality would have been earmarked for duty against Daniel Goulding, allowing Marc Ó Sé to detail Brian Hurley on the youngster’s first truly big day in the red jersey.

O’Mahony’s injury will prompt a rethink for the Kerry selectors with the inexperienced Peter Crowley or Mark Griffin likely deputies. The Cork full-forward line will see the opportunity to create some havoc.

If Kerry’s full-back line is a concern, then Cork are not without their troubles in this department either. Shields, Cadogan and Cahalane are all fine players yet in a perfect world they would man the half-back positions instead.

The football abilities of Shields and Cahalane, in particular, would be utilised to greater effect further from goal. Needs must, however.

It will be interesting to see who will take up marking duties on the key Kerry playmakers in Cooper, Donaghy and Declan O’Sullivan. Shields has battled manfully against both Donaghy and Cooper in the past and loves nothing better than a challenge. A release to centre-back to mark Cooper would suit the Barr’s man but can Cork afford to take him away from the square? It’s a tough call.

That would leave only Cadogan and Cahalane with the physical capabilities to confront Donaghy. Cadogan struggled at times against Gary Brennan from Clare while Cahalane has yet to face a player of the calibre of Donaghy in the Cork jersey.

One of these is likely to face the task on Sunday and their ability to cope could have a big bearing on this match.

Surprised

As for Declan O’Sullivan, I would not be surprised to see Antrim import James Loughrey pick him up. Loughrey reminds me of Johnny Miskella in how he plays the game and Miskella is a player who troubled O’Sullivan in this fixture in the past.

He is not too keen on chasing back and having the back dictate to him.

If Kerry are on top though he is capable of causing untold trouble for the Cork defence. Paudie Kissane may then be tasked with Paul Galvin watch for the outing. Good luck Paudie!

I expect Aidan Walsh to return at midfield to partner Graham Canty and give Cork a slight edge over Maher and Buckley, while Ciarán Sheehan will push John O’Rourke and Fintan Goold for inclusion also. Ciaran’s physicality and athleticism would help to pin Tomás Ó Sé back and this may enter the thinking of Conor Counihan and his selectors ahead of this game.

I noted that the sideline battle will also be a deciding battle yet it is hard to read anything out of the previous landslide victories for both sides as to how the sides will approach a sterner test.

As such, it could make for an open and, hopefully, high-quality affair. Much will come down to who gets their match-ups right.

Cork need to shut down the aforementioned Kerry threats and allow their perceived greater athleticism and power to prevail. Kerry are not Donegal and there will be spaces for the Cork runners to exploit.

I don’t think either set of supporters can be overwhelmed with confidence for this one but I am happy to give my tentative vote to Cork for the reasons I have outlined.

Thankfully the formalities have been dispensed with, now the real ac tion begins. Up Cork!

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