THE redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh can hold 45,000 supporters – but its stands and terraces will remain empty this Sunday.
Because of Covid restrictions, the All-Ireland championships are being played behind closed doors this year and that means the latest instalment of the Cork v Kerry rivalry will be one of the most unusual in the history of this fixture: there will be no supporters at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
‘It’s a lot different from what you’d be used to, especially against Kerry in a Munster semi-final. That always draws a big crowd and a great atmosphere, no matter if it’s on in Kerry or in Cork,’ Rebel footballer Kevin O’Driscoll told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘Playing Kerry in an empty stadium will be a bit eerie.’
Cork’s final Division 3 Allianz Football League game, a 5-19 to 0-16 hammering of Louth, was played at an empty Páirc Uí Chaoimh a few weeks back, and O’Driscoll feels that’s an experience the Rebels can draw on for Sunday’s derby. Ronan McCarthy’s men have also been training at the stadium, too.
‘Our experience from the Louth game is once it starts and kicks off, all that goes out of your head and you’re just in the moment, playing the game. You can still hear each other calling on the pitch and you still have communication so that will be the same as any other day,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘It’s more the build-up and the warm-up beforehand that you really notice it.
‘It’s definitely going to be a different Munster semi-final but any day that Kerry come to town, it’s not just the crowd that get you up for the game. We will have to put it out of our minds once the game starts.’
The Tadhg MacCarthaigh clubman added: ‘We are training in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the moment, a big stadium with no-one there so that will be some benefit to us in knowing what it’s going to be like on the day.’
Having played club championship and national league games behind closed doors and with no fans present, players are becoming more used to it, but O’Driscoll adds it’s not a situation that they want to get used to long-term.