Joe Kavanagh recalls the last time Cork won in Kerry
BY DENIS HURLEY
JOE Kavanagh makes a very valid point in terms of Cork’s 22-year wait for a senior championship win against Kerry in Killarney.
The Nemo Rangers clubman was part of the last Rebel side to come back the N22 victorious (last football side anyway – Cork hurlers beat Tipperary in Killarney in 2004) when a third Munster title in a row was claimed on July 23rd, 1995. Cork won by 0-15 to 1-9, with Kavanagh kicking a point.
In the intervening period, Cork have played Kerry on 12 occasions in Killarney. Five of those games have been draws – a fairly creditable statistic on its own, but taken with seven losses in the other games, it adds up to an unwanted record.
Kavanagh feels that the fact the total in years is used rather than the total number of games can give a lopsided effect.
‘It has to be,’ he says.
‘If you don’t win this year, you’re looking at three years in a row in the Páirc so then, before the next game, it’s 26 years since the last win in Killarney.
‘The run extends without any games being played, so the legend kind of grows and it’s built up too much.’
Kavanagh made his Cork championship debut in a disappointing 2-14 to 0-10 defeat to Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1992, but he would be part of successful teams in his next three meetings with the Kingdom.
Cork had had six points to spare on Clare in their semi-final while Kerry had put seven goals on Tipperary in the last four. A late comeback had been needed to deny Ogie Moran’s team victory in 1994 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and another battle was expected but at the Cork never feared Kerry.
‘Larry (Tompkins) wasn’t supposed to be playing,’ Kavanagh remembers, ‘He was named at full forward and I went in there and he went centre.
‘The main memory from that year is that we lost to Dublin in the semi-final. We had done a Munster three in a row but we had nothing to show for it in terms of All-Irelands.
‘Walking out as a player after the win in Killarney, you certainly wouldn’t have thought that it would be so long before Cork would win there again. At that stage, we had it over them, we hadn’t lost to them since 1992.’
The next year, Kerry, with Páidí Ó Sé having taken over from Moran, would win in the Park, hastening the end of Morgan’s first reign as Cork manager. It meant that a team in transition would stay in a kind of stasis, as evidenced by the 1997 loss to Clare before another defeat to Kerry in Killarney in 1998 – Tompkins’ last match as a player before fully turning his attentions to management.
‘Shea (Fahy) was still there, Teddy Mac (McCarthy) was still there, big names but with huge miles on the clock,’ Kavanagh says.
‘Their experience helped us in one way, obviously. We still had a nucleus of guys who had won a lot but they had had a lot of toll on their bodies too.
‘The U21 team of 1994 was beginning to come on but then, after Billy left at the end of 1996, it was all up in the air. That U21 team was pretty much lost, even though we got to the final in 1999.’
Kavanagh’s last game in Fitzgerald Stadium was the forgettable 0-8 each draw in 2002, as he came on as a sub in the rain. That gave him a fairly symmetrical record there as a player when the 2000 defeat is taken into account and he worries that the lack of recent success could be a hindrance.
‘In my own era, we had no fear of going down there,’ he says.
‘Obviously, we won in 1993 and 1995. In ’98, they beat us and again in 2000 and then in 2002 it was a draw, so I had two wins, two losses and a draw over a nine-year period.
‘The current crop haven’t won a Munster title so they have that pressure on them. A couple of them have won All-Ireland medals but none of them have won in Killarney.
‘It’s an extra burden on top of not playing well, it’s almost like Westmeath going into the Dublin game, not even believing that they’re going to win.
‘They might say they do or feel they can, but deep down they probably know they won’t. You’re two or three points down straightaway then.’
To that end, is it madness for Cork to throw the shackles off and play with abandon on Sunday, knowing that it could lead to annihilation?
‘I don’t think so, I think it’s a guarantee for giving a performance,’ he says.
‘The fear is that they’ll be defensive and stay in their shells and be afraid to try anything. Kerry would just deal with that and go three or four up and then any confidence Cork had would seep out again.
‘I think their best chance is if they just go for it.’