CORK’S next step in their progression must be overcoming a top team in an important game, according to Mark Collins.
And the Castlehaven skipper believes dethroning Kerry as Munster champions in Sunday’s semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh (4pm) would be an ideal starting point.
“There would be no better game to win than a Munster semi-final against Kerry in a knock-out match,” said Collins.
“I think we have to win one of those games to take the next step and really progress as a team.
“It’s something we’ve touched on as a group. We’ve had a lot of good performances against top teams over the years, but we haven’t won any of them.”
The qualifying route for the losers is cordoned off this season because of Covid, but that’s not going to be on either teams’ minds.
“Any day you play Kerry you know you’re in for a real game and you’ll do anything to win it, so having no back-door won’t make a difference.”
Competition for jerseys numbered 10 to 15 is very keen and either way Cork should have a strong bench, which is so important these days.
Newcomers Cathail O’Mahony, Damien Gore, Brian Hartnett and Colm O’Callaghan have put their hands up for selection, joining seasoned campaigners like Collins, Brian Hurley, Paul Kerrigan, Luke Connolly, Ruairí Deane, John O’Rourke, Kevin O’Driscoll and Michael Hurley, Sean Powter and Eoghan McSweeney to a lesser extent.
Deciding on a starting sextet from the group, as well as places in reserve, will keep management occupied for quite a while, you’d imagine.
It’s going to be very strange on Sunday with the game behind closed doors and who knows what the weather will throw up given the wind and rain from last weekend.
“It won’t be a disadvantage for us because we’re used to playing in front of very small crowds at Páirc Uí Chaoimh anyway. A number of our home league games over the years wouldn’t have massive crowds.
“It’s obviously disappointing that a county the size of Cork hasn’t won a Munster title since 2012. Yet, it’s something that doesn’t play in the back of our minds going into the game.”
Kerry come into the tie on a high after claiming the Division 1 title and Collins and co know what’s coming down the tracks.
“I saw their two games and they seem to be set up quite defensively.
“Since Covid we’ve been impressed by them, looking fit, strong and quite athletic and Kerry have had two good performances.
“We’ve met them so often in Munster over the years that we know what they’re about and we also know that if we’re not on top of our game we won’t do against them.
“We have a lot of young lads coming through who have absolutely no fear of playing Kerry and the fact that Cork haven’t won since 2012 won’t be an issue.
“It’s similar to the time a lot of us came on the senior scene because we had been very successful at under-age, too.
“We had a very good record against Kerry, but, unfortunately, we didn’t make it count.
“Cork’s problem over the past decade has been inconsistency. We’ve always had good one-off performances, but it just isn’t good enough and we haven’t built on them.
“I think in the past couple of years we’re managing to be a bit more consistent and it’s something to build on.”
This will be Collins’s 10th championship campaign, but the 30-year-old’s season was disrupted by injury initially.
“I missed the start of the league and the only game time I had was against Tipperary in the McGrath Cup, so I was delighted to get back.
“The only thing I’d be a small bit concerned about is the step-up from club to county and from the 60 to the 70 minute games.
“That’s something all of us had to get accustomed to after the club championships came to an end and we’d use in-house games to sort it.
“Still the games at club level were very competitive and you couldn’t ask for any more really,” Collins concluded.