CORK are ready to right the wrongs of last year’s Munster senior football final horror show against Kerry.
The Rebels, who were embarrassed in their own Páirc Uí Chaioimh backyard in last July’s provincial decider, have the perfect chance to exact some revenge when they entertain their neighbours, and All-Ireland champions, Kerry in Páirc Uí Rinn this Sunday afternoon, at 2pm, in an Allianz Football League Division 1 derby.
Castlehaven footballer Mark Collins, a second-half sub in that 0-24 to 0-12 defeat to the Kerry last summer, insists that the Rebels are out to prove their doubters wrong this Sunday.
‘We know we let ourselves down in the Munster final last year and we know that we aren’t that bad so we have a point to prove this weekend,’ Collins told The Southern Star.
‘Obviously, Kerry are flying at the moment, they have a good few players back and Paul Galvin’s return will give them a boost as well. They will be heavy favourites so we will be up against it but these are the sort of games that all players love and we can’t wait for Sunday.’
That 2014 Munster final defeat still lingers in the memory of Cork players and supporters, and it’s given Brian Cuthbert’s men an incentive this year, as Collins explains.
‘We never showed up that day and we never got going at all. For whatever reason we were flat and dead that day. That’s not this Cork football team, we are better than that,’ he said.
‘We know we’re not that bad but at the same time maybe we aren’t as good as the hammering we gave them in Tralee last year (Cork beat Kerry 2-18 to 1-11 in a league game in Austin Stack Park). Both teams are quite evenly matched when you look at it on paper so, hopefully, we can perform a bit better on Sunday.’
This home league game in Páirc Uí Rinn is important for a number of reasons, and one of those being that it will give Cork a chance to show their supporters that the team can challenge for honours this season.
‘It’s important to show the fans what we are capable of and if we could beat Kerry on Sunday it will show our supporters that we are a good team, and hopefully get them on board for the year ahead,’ Collins said.
‘We know we left a lot of people down last year with the way that we played against them. It was a big disappointment.’
The fact that Kerry are reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions only adds to the interest in this weekend’s game, as Collins explains.
‘It’s always nice to play against the best teams and, being honest, there are four or five teams above us at the moment so it’s good to play against them and to prove ourselves against the top sides.
‘Kerry have started the league quite strongly, they are the top team in the country at the moment and they will be favourites for the All-Ireland again so this is just the test we need right now.’
Cork lost their 100 per cent league record with last weekend’s one-point loss to Donegal, coming after successive wins against Dublin and Monaghan, and there is a lot of work ahead if Cork are to become serious contenders for the big prizes, according to Collins.
‘It’s early days but we’re pleased enough with the way things are going,’ he said.
‘We’re doing okay in the league but obviously losing to Donegal last Sunday was disappointing. We are showing good spirit and we are ready to push on from here. We are showing plenty of spirit but there is a lot of work to do.’
The return of Paul Galvin to the Kerry ranks on Tuesday night was a big surprise to all, and while he won’t feature in Sunday’s derby in the city, Collins joked that Cork GAA supporters will be looking forward to any potential summer showdown – most likely a Munster final in Killarney in July.
‘It’s great to have the best players playing and a big boost for Kerry. It will add some excitement to our game against them, if we meet in the summer, because there’s always a bit of banter between him and the Cork fans, so that’s something to look forward to,’ Collins said.
‘Kerry seem to have a good mix between the old and young but we have a lot of experience in our panel. We have All-Ireland medal winners here, fellas who have played in the biggest games and young fellas who are starting out so we’ve a good blend, and we aren’t short of experience either.’