IT’S part of the general make-up of the Cork football supporter to not use up too much hope in case it’s wasted.
Too often in the past, opportunities have been missed and, like Nick Hornby described in ‘Fever Pitch,’ the fans became like those people who swore off love after having their hearts broken one too many times.
Such a mindset partly explains why nobody has allowed themselves to get too excited with the defeat of Kerry two weeks ago. Even allowing for the fact that the result eliminated the Kingdom from the championship, meaning that there’s no chance of a Croke Park ambush, there is still a blue-and-gold (or white and green, as it is this week) banana skin in the form of Tipperary.
It should be pointed out that, while some people have expressed the view that, ‘It would be just like Cork to beat Kerry and lose to Tipp,’ you have to go back to 1935 for the last time that the Rebels lost a Munster final to anyone other than the old enemy. While there have been close calls like 2002 against Tipp and 2009 against Limerick, when Cork have beaten Kerry before the final, they have gone on to finish the job.
In any case, if there was one opponent that you wanted to put in front of Cork to make sure that the focus wouldn’t be dimmed, it would be Tipperary. The loss to the Premier County – then managed by Rosscarbery native Peter Creedon – in 2016 was one of many low points in the post-Conor Counihan era and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Tipp almost repeated that feat at Páirc Uí Rinn a year later, Cork needing a late Luke Connolly goal to get out of jail.
That result wasn’t exactly an emphatic rebalancing of the status quo in terms of Kerry’s chasing pack in Munster at the time as Tipp came to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Cork’s first football game there at the opening of the 2018 league and served new manager Ronan McCarthy with a six-point defeat that left no doubt about the fact that Cork’s standing had significantly altered.
While the Rebels would enjoy an impressive victory in Thurles in the championship in May of that year, it was a rare high point in a disappointing year, followed by humblings against Kerry and then Tyrone in the qualifiers. In the pre-Munster final press conference, Cork captain Ian Maguire spoke about that Tyrone game and feeling embarrassed coming off the field afterwards, having expected a response.
‘I remember I met Fintan Goold walking off and I couldn't even look at him because I felt embarrassed,’ he said. ‘That's the ever-lasting memory I have. Because I thought in 2018 where are we going from here after getting absolutely manhandled by Tyrone.
‘I remember Fintan, a player who I played with and the first person I roomed with when I was playing against Mayo in 2014, he said something like, “Just keep the head up,” to me and I looked down at the floor. That's my one memory that I'm always going to be, like, “Don't let that happen again”.’
Even though Cork endured a rocky start to the 2019 league, eventually culminating in relegation to Division 3, things turned midway through that campaign, albeit too late to survive. Included in the improved second part of that league was a win over Tipp in Thurles and Cork triumphed there in the spring of this year too, albeit narrowly, 3-13 to 0-21.
While the graph is pointing upwards again, too many members of the team have been beaten by Tipp at various grades to take the challenge lightly.
Given that this weekend marks the centenary of Bloody Sunday, there may be a sense of destiny in Tipp making the final, with those commemorative jerseys marking the sorrowful occasion which saw Michael Hogan among 14 civilian casualties. Such a thing can inspire or inhibit, but Cork just have to ignore anything bar the game and ensure that the focus is on the victory.
From everything we have seen so far this year, the feeling is that they will do that.