herald

Monday 11 December 2017

No more phoney wars for Kingdom

I FULLY expected Cork to win with a little to spare last Sunday. I watched the Kingdom labour to a win over Tipp in the earlier round and their body language was terrible.

I trace it all to the departure of the much respected coach Donie Buckley, a loss that has annoyed the Kerry players and meant a strong coaching influence and respected voice is missing at training and on match day.

In recent years, the provincial clash of these two modern superpowers has been summarised merely as an opening confrontation, a method by which one team goes directly to Croke Park and the other takes the long way home.

Of course, both squads are at pains to state it is a vital game, one that will inform all summer advancements or lack of. But we know the truth to be otherwise.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and you must remember Kerry and Cork hold the record for All-Ireland quarter-final appearances (Kerry have never missed out while The Rebels missed one). Move along then quickly please -- there is nothing much to see here. Cork and Kerry only tog for real in August.

Or maybe it's a bit different this time? In defeat, Kerry certainly did not play as if it was a game of great importance. You had a sense once they subbed off Paul Galvin and Kieran Donaghy, two players really struggling for form just now, that Kerry would not be able to save this game. That as a squad, while the birth certs are okay, the mileage on the clock points to fatigue.

And, of course, they have said goodbye to so many fantastic players in the past few years -- Darragh ó Sé, Diarmuid Murphy, Tommy Walsh, Tadhg Kennelly and Tom O'Sullivan. The performances had to suffer and, of late, they are.

A good result for Cork then? Most observers feel the win is only an opening thrust in a journey that is likely to last into late autumn and almost certain to end in Croke Park.

For their self esteem alone as footballers, Cork simply had to win this one. They can plan for August Bank Holiday weekend football now as Clare, a Division Four team when all the hype that will launch soon is stripped away, cannot be expected to live with Cork's power and ability.

Yet Cork should keep an eye on their wing mirrors, because when next they pause to examine the Road to Croker, I expect they will see the Green and Gold once again speeding up the motorway.

Kerry missed four glorious goal chances and put kickable 45s and frees wide. Key players will return to form, because they are just too good not to and when they have soothed their bodies through the qualifiers, they will look forward to playing Cork again in Croke Park, a venue the 2010 champions have never beaten them in.

And this time it won't be one of those phoney games down in Munster. This time it will be for real.

In the meantime, Cork's only test between the win over Kerry and All-Ireland quarter-finals weekend in nine weeks' time is a provincial final versus Clare. So, should Cork really be all that thrilled to have won last Sunday?

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