Thursday 27 October 2016

Fairytale of Tipp to hit the reeks

Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice shakes hands with Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice shakes hands with Donnchadh Walsh. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Munster SFC Final: Kerry v Tipperary (Tomorrow 2.0, live RTÉ 1)

Fitzgerald Stadium on the first Sunday in July. It can mean only one thing - a Rebel invasion of the Killarney Reeks and that time-honoured tradition of a Cork/Kerry Munster football time. Right?

Eh, wrong.

Tipperary football has been a resurgent entity for several years - reflected in their All-Ireland minor win of 2011 and last year's qualification for an All-Ireland U21 decider.

And yet this summer's historic disruption of the annual Cork/Kerry pageantry still registered as a seismic shock because Liam Kearns inherited a very different squad to the one he had anticipated.

Bad enough to have lost Colin O'Riordan, the brightest star in the Tipp football firmament, to Aussie Rules's embrace before his appointment ... at least Kearns knew the story there.

But, since then, the Kerryman had endured the defection of dual stars Seamus Kennedy and Steven O'Brien to the county hurlers followed by Jason Lonergan, Liam Casey and Kevin Fahey to the lure of a summer spent Stateside.

This explains why few people expected a Tipperary side that finished sixth in Division 3 to take out a Cork side that endured its own league tribulations, culminating in last-day relegation from the top-flight.

So few, in fact, that just 2,734 turned up at Semple Stadium for their semi-final.

In the circumstances, to engineer a nine-point lead three times during the second half was some feat. An even bigger achievement was how they held their nerve after Cork stormed back to parity in the 70th minute, Kevin O'Halloran emerging as hero of the hour with two stoppage-time deadball efforts, including a nerveless '45' to restore Tipp's lead.

It all means that blue-and-gold, not rebel red, will invade the Kingdom tomorrow.

And here, one suspects, is where the fairytale ends.

Kerry are well accustomed to facing Tipp, albeit earlier in the summer. They invariably win but not always by a landslide - just six points separated them in last year's Munster semi-final, and also in 2012.


Thus, chances are, Éamonn Fitzmaurice would have them fully warned against complacency even without the ammunition of that Cork result.

Kerry are forewarned; they're at home; and they are not Cork, in all their flaky glory.

Moreover, for all the question marks about defensive vulnerability (exposed by Dublin in the league final and, to a lesser extent, by Clare's 0-17 haul last month) at least Éamonn Fitz had options, lots of them.

They're taking the shortest route back to Croker.

ODDS: Kerry 1/25 Draw 22/1 Tipp 10/1


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