Cork will look to end a four-year wait for a Munster junior football title when they clash with Kerry in this Tuesday’s final in Páirc Uí Rinn (7.30pm).
BY DENIS HURLEY
CORK will look to end a four-year wait for a Munster junior football title when they clash with Kerry in this Tuesday’s final in Páirc Uí Rinn (7.30pm).
During the early part of the 2000s, Cork settled into a nice routine, as All-Ireland titles were claimed every second year – 2003 was the only odd-numbered year where this didn’t happen from 2001-13 inclusive.
The reason for the cyclical nature of the wins is that players on an All-Ireland-winning team are not eligible the following year.
However, in both 2015 and ’16, full-strength Cork sides have fallen to Kerry, with the Kingdom going on to win the All-Ireland each time, despite having had to assemble a scratch side last year. Those players won’t be involved but many of the stars of 2015 will be available to the visitors.
Cork captain is Bandon’s Peter Murphy. Like almost all of his team-mates, he is combining county duties with club and divisional demands – he is a dual star for the Lilywhites and play senior football for Carbery too.
This weekend, his focus is on Bandon’s senior hurling tie with Carrigtwohill before attentions turn to the Munster final. He acknowledges that every player is busy at this time of year, but still feels that Cork’s preparations have been good.
‘Unfortunately, fellas do have a lot of club commitments, so it can be difficult, but we’ve got together a few times alright,’ he says.
‘We’ve had four training sessions so far and two more planned between now and the match. It’s good to have those opportunities, but obviously you’re trying to work around fellas and their work with their clubs.
‘We have hurling championship against Carrigtwohill on Saturday, so I’ll miss a training session because of that.
‘Every fella is pretty much in the same boat. There are so many club championship games on around this time, they’ll obviously take priority. When we do get together, the sessions are good and there’s a strong bond there, so hopefully we can drive it on now.’
Cork were 3-21 to 0-9 winners over Waterford in their semi-final tie at the end of May, with Eoghan Buckley scoring 1-5, Séamus Hickey 1-3 and Anthony O’Connor getting five points while the other goal came from John Cronin.
Six of the side that lined out that evening featured in last year’s Munster final, when Kerry’s 0-14 to 0-13 win gave them the first three-in-a-row in the province since Cork’s five on the troll from 1986-90.
Murphy lined out at full-back in that one-point loss, as he will do again next week. He is optimistic that the experience within the Cork team will prove to be a benefit to Paul McCarthy’s side.
‘I suppose some of the team would have played last year,’ he says, ‘then there were a few new faces brought in this year to freshen things up.
‘Hopefully, the experience of last year will act as an incentive to drive us forward.
‘This Kerry team, a lot of them already have All-Ireland medals in their pockets from two years ago, they’ll come in with a lot of experience and they’ll be a completely different obstacle.
‘It’s something we’re relishing though, we’re definitely looking forward to it. If you can’t get yourself up for a Cork and Kerry match, there’s no point playing the game, really.’
Kerry had a 0-26 to 0-6 win over Limerick in their semi-final in Ennis a fortnight ago. They had 11 scorers, among them Conor Cox, Killian Spillane and Philip O’Connor. Pa Kilkenny and Brendan O’Sullivan are other players with senior experience on the Kingdom side, managed by Jimmy Keane.
In addition, five of the side have All-Ireland minor medals, but Murphy isn’t overwhelmed by the fact that the visitors will travel as favourites.
‘I suppose the fact that they have so many fellas who have been there and done it a couple of years ago, maybe they might go in as favourites,’ he says.
‘With the junior competition, you never really know, a lot of the time it comes down to who plays better on the day, the favourites’ tag is kind of meaningless, in a way.
‘We’re not really interested in who’s favourites or not, we’re just concentrating on our own performance and our own preparation and hopefully that will see us through.
‘It’s great to have a home venue and hopefully we can get a big crowd behind us on the night and that will give us the extra ten percent.’