BY KIERAN McCARTHY
PAUL Kerrigan believes Cork’s senior footballers are ‘one big win away from getting going’.
The Nemo Rangers forward admits that the Rebels are lacking consistency and were ‘exceptionally poor’ in last year’s fourth round All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Kildare in Thurles, but he feels one big victory over a major force could kickstart the county’s championship hopes. Not since Cork beat Kerry in the 2012 Munster SFC semi-final (0-17 to 0-12) have the Rebels scalped one of the established top teams of recent years, and Kerrigan (29) agrees that it’s been far too long.
‘We are one big win away from getting going,’ Kerrigan told The Southern Star.
‘There is fierce talent there. If we beat Kerry the first day out last year (in the Munster final) the confidence that would have given guys, especially the younger fellas, would have been unbelievable. One big win will put us in a good place and we can build momentum from there. We need that win, the sooner the better.’
Kerrigan togged out for the first time this year in last Sunday’s challenge match in Clonakilty between the Reardens All-Stars and Cork, and he returned to inter-county training this week where he was sitting down with the new management team to set targets for the upcoming league.
‘It’s a fresh start (with new manager Peadar Healy) but no matter how many years you are on the panel – whether it’s one or ten years – a defeat like we had against Kildare will affect you. We don’t want to feel it again,’ Kerrigan admitted.
‘Last we year we saw some good stuff from Cork in the championship and some exceptionally poor stuff in the space of three weeks. What we need is consistency because in 2013, 2014 and 2015 we haven’t been consistent and you don’t know what you are going to get with us.
‘We were favourites against Kildare and we need to get to the stage where we beat teams that we are favourites against. Then against the top teams it should be a 50-50 game. We need to be more consistent to perform in the championship.’
Kerrigan is right. This Cork team hasn’t been consistent in recent seasons, and he agrees that they need to find the missing ingredient quickly.
‘It has to be a bit of a mindset, to be honest. I won an All-Ireland in 2010 and we should have kicked on, but we didn’t. We haven’t won a big game in two or three years,’ the 2015 Reardens Footballer of the Year pointed out.
‘Whether you are old or young you need to find something different in yourself to get there. The game has changed a lot in the last five or six years. Overall we haven’t been good enough. It might be physical. It might be mental. We have to find that extra something again.
‘In terms of strength and conditioning most teams are around the same, so maybe it’s something within ourselves that we need to find to get that consistency and style of play that suits us best.
‘It’s down to us when we cross the white line. We brought the intensity the first day against Kerry, it was there until the last 15 minutes against Kerry the second day and it wasn’t there at all against Kildare. You can blame the week break but a lot of that is the head – this is the championship, you have to be up for every game but Kildare tore us apart that day.’
After a busy 2015 with Cork, captaining Nemo to the Cork SFC and playing for Ireland in the International Rules win against Australia, Kerrigan took six weeks off to recharge the batteries.
‘I turned 29 in December and the body isn’t the same as it was five or six years ago so it’s important to do things right and give it a rest. It’s just as important mentally as well to step back from it for a little bit, especially when you have been on the go solid for 13 months. Those five or six weeks off were a God-send, but I’m ready to go again now,’ Kerrigan said, as he targets that ‘one big win’ that could change the fortunes of this Cork football team.