THERE’S nothing like the sight of a Kerry jersey to focus the mind, Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien smiles, but she appreciates too how this Saturday’s derby is the ideal All-Ireland senior championship opener for the Rebels.
Cork sat out last weekend’s opening round of fixtures and watched on as Kerry hammered Cavan by 5-14 to 0-13 in Group 1 – a result that means if the Kingdom beat Cork this Saturday in Austin Stack Park, Tralee (3pm throw-in), then the green and gold will advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals and knock the Rebels out.
The format of this year’s senior championship sees four groups of three with the winner moving into the last four and as Kerry have one win under their belt, Cork must win this Saturday’s clash.
The fact it’s Kerry in opposition will focus Cork minds, as Martina O’Brien told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘It’s a good one to be going into. We know how good they are, they always bring their A game and it’s never easy. For them, they see a Cork jersey and they want to beat it, and it’s the same for us, we see a Kerry jersey and it riles you up, it gets you in the zone,’ O’Brien explained.
‘It’s a good one to start with, you know what you’re in for and if you are not prepared for that, you’re not going to come out on the winning side.’
Cork’s last competitive game was a Division 1 league loss to Donegal on March 8th so it’s been a long wait. Kerry have the advantage of their win against Cavan last weekend so O’Brien knows they need to hit the ground running.
‘We haven’t had a competitive game since the league so we are probably going in a little cold but training has been going very well,’ she said.
‘We have prepared fairly well, we have done as much as we can to be prepared and we want to play now because there has been a long lead-in.
‘We are wary that Kerry have had that match, they put up a serious score, they have serious firepower and they seem to have some players back to strengthen their panel.’
Looking at the weather last weekend, and the wind and rain last Sunday, it could be a leveller in the championship. Winter football presents its own challenges, especially for goalkeepers.
‘We’d normally encounter this weather at the start of the league but no-one expects to play championship-style football at the start of the league so you get away with dropping the ball,’ O’Brien said.
‘It will be the same for everyone, the weather is the weather and both teams have to play in it. It’s going to be wet and it’s going to be windy but you just have to get on with it.
‘Our style is probably better suited to summer football when it’s dry but you adapt and just get on with it.’