LAST WORD COLUMN BY SPORTS EDITOR KIERAN McCARTHY
LET’S deal with the elephant in the room before we go any further. I’m a Kerryman. That’s not a secret, granted, but it’s an important disclaimer before we journey further this week.
I’m also a Kerryman working as Sports Editor in a West Cork newspaper and we’re building up to another Munster senior football final between the two counties. I can see why the waters look muddied.
Disclaimer number two: I’m not an undercover agent deployed by the evil empire to keep a close eye on Cork football and report back to Kerry Football HQ. I’m too tall to be a secret agent, too inconspicuous and too clumsy to hide up a tree and spy on training sessions. I’m the antithesis of Jason Bourne. I wouldn’t last one day
But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that give me a unique insight into life on both sides of the county bounds in the lead-up to Munster football finals between Cork and Kerry.
And I understand Cork peoples’ pain.
Kerry football folk can be an insufferable lot when they roll out the ‘yerras’; it’s the well-worked Kerry method of letting on that a situation is far worse than it actually is. And we’re hitting the summer months, peak yerra isn’t too far away.
That Kerry yerra machine cranked up again in the hours and days after the recent Munster SFC semi-finals. Cork put Limerick to the sword in one while Kerry got past Clare in the other semi-final. The performances of both Cork and Kerry saw former Kerry footballers and current pundits fall over themselves to build Cork up.
Ambrose O’Donovan, on Radio Kerry, is said to have suggested that Cork will be favourites for the Munster final on June 22nd off the back of the semi-finals. My reaction: Jesus. H. Christ. Please stop.
Pat Spillane, on The Sunday Game, actually used the phrase ‘Barcelona-like’ to describe Cork’s first-half performance against a Limerick team that finished second bottom of Division 4 in the league. Again, quite embarrassing.
Both men are in need of a cold shower to quell the hype build-up.
Little wonder Eamonn Murphy of The Echo took to Twitter to express an opinion shared by all of Cork: ‘Division 3 Cork, after beating a woeful Limerick, are suddenly favourites against the Division 1 runners-up, who have hammered the Rebels in the last two Munster finals in the Páirc. And they wonder why we get sick of the nonsense Kerry spout.’
So, with the Munster final fast approaching, here’s a Kerryman’s guide to Cork supporters on how to survive Kerry people in the build-up to the big game.
• Don’t talk to Kerry people: It seems a severe step, but it’s necessary. The yerra grows in strength this time of year. It’s in-built in the Kerry psyche. They’ll play the poor mouth – but don’t let your guard down.
‘Yerra, James O’Donoghue is out, shur we’re fecked without him’ – but really that means, ‘Ha, ye poor f*ckers, we still have Clifford, Geaney and O’Shea and they’ll tear ye open.’
‘Yerra, they were pure shite in the second half against Clare, I don’t know will they do at all this year’ – but, translated, ‘Believe that and ye’ll believe anything, that’s just the kick up the arse we needed before we play Cork.. Watch us go, baby.’
These weeks, if a Kerry person tells you it’s sunny, double check for yourself and reach for an umbrella. I wouldn’t class it as just cute hoorism, this is more thought-out than that.
• Avoid Kerry, if you can: The easiest way to avoid talking to Kerry people – and I include husbands, wives, immediate family, work colleagues and even nieces, nephews and godchildren – is to avoid the county of Kerry in its entirety for the next ten days. The power of yerra is at its strongest closer to its source. On home soil it can be too much for the unsuspecting Cork supporter. If you have to travel to Kerry, don’t look the locals in the eye. If they initiate eye contact, look away instantly. Do not go on a jaunting cart in Killarney – jarveys are the Jedi Masters of The Yerra who will talk of leprechauns, Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the growing Kerry injury crisis. They’re quite convincing. Avoid GAA bars like The Tatler Jack and Jimmy O’Briens, the latter’s a gem but, again, be mindful of the yerra.
• Don’t read/listen to Kerry media: Last week the headline on the front page of The Kerry’s Eye sports shouted ‘Walking Wounded’. It went on to say that Kerry’s injury crisis is growing ahead of the Munster final. Poor craters might not have enough fit bodies to hobble together a team for the 22nd. Don’t get sucked in. Don’t believe it. Be wise. Kerry will be fine for the final. This is yerra at its boldest. They know these headlines will work their way into Cork, set down roots and grow into a nonsense rumour. Cork people should know better by now.
• Pinch yourself: Cork fans need to keep their feet planted in reality. Think of the scene in Fr Ted where Fr Dougal tried to convince Fr Ted about a Spider-baby – ‘it has the body of a spider but it’s actually a baby’. It turns out it was all a dream by Dougal. Then Ted pulls out a drawing that highlights the difference between dreams and reality. The dream for Cork supporters is winning the Munster final and shoving it to Kerry – but that’s the Spider-baby. The reality is that Kerry are going for seven-in-a-row and contested the Division 1 final this year whereas Cork lost by 17 points to Kerry in last year’s Munster final and were relegated down to Division 3 this year. Two teams on different levels. Stay realistic. Reign in expectations.
• Spot the plámás: It’s a beautiful, soft word, plámás, when it’s used correctly and delivered subtly – but you need to be wise and alert, otherwise you’ll be plámásed and none the wiser for it. Plámás means empty flattery, the type to soften you up because you believe what you’re being told. That’s a marked difference to yerra which is in-your-face, so the art of plámásing could be going on around you without you even knowing. Ahead of the Munster final, just keep in mind that when the Kerry folk are in free-flow and it doesn’t look, sound and smell like yerra, they could have pulled out the big one, the plámás. I’ll direct you back to two early points: Don’t talk to Kerry people and Avoid Kerry if you can. It’s precautionary, and once the 22nd has passed, normal service will resume.
• Build the subconscious Wall: Cork doesn’t have time – and the county board doesn’t have the finances – to build a Wall, Game of Thrones style, to keep the Kerry wildlings out of west West Cork (say a special prayer for those on the Beara peninsula who are actually in the dioscese of Kerry). Theoretically, we'd need a wall from Ballydesmond down towards the Caha Pass, but considering how long we're waiting for the Macroom by-pass, this won't happen in our lifetimes. Still, Kerry folk would tunnel their way in no doubt and spread the yerra, but subconsciously once Cork folk are aware of the dangers of ‘yerra’ and ‘plámásing’, then they are in a better position to ignore it and continue on with everyday life. Or, maybe have a little fun with the neighbours. It’s almost a reverse reverse psychology. Play along with the stories that Kerry have had to draft Mikey Sheehy back in because of a shortage in attack and he scored 3-4 in a training game, and that a parish priest from South Kerry had to soak the magic sponges in holy water to avoid any more injuries. Let the teller believe you’re listening. But you’ve built the Wall, you’ve spotted the yerra and you know it’s all bullshit. Take the high road. Be the bigger person.