Cork footballers need to show that beating Kerry was no fluke

Cork footballers need to show that beating Kerry was no fluke

Tipperary's Brian Fox scores their third goal past Ian Maguire in the win over Cork in 2016. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

WHATEVER way you dress it up, there's huge pressure on the Cork footballers to get the job done this Sunday.

Having beaten Kerry for the first time in eight years, they're raging favourites to land the Munster title as well.

Tipperary won't give a damn about that. They might have only beaten Cork once since 1944, but that was in 2016 and they should have repeated the feat a year later, only for Luke Connolly to plunder a dramatic late goal to deny them at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Tipp beat Cork in the league last year and only lost by the minimum this spring. They now have Aussie Rules pro Colin O'Riordan available, a counterpoint to Cork's secret weapon against Kerry, Mark Keane, and will wear special jerseys this weekend to commemorate 1920's Bloody Sunday.

On a number of levels, it's set up for the Premier to tear into Cork just as the Rebels did against Kerry. The boys over the border would knock some craic out of Cork getting caught in the provincial final. It's a clear and present danger because very few on Leeside are giving Tipp a genuine chance and plenty of supporters are already wondering if there's an All-Ireland up for grabs, with Mayo awaiting in the semi-final at Croker.  

Tipp were impressive in taking out Clare and pretty fortunate in the extra-time win over Limerick. The bottom line was, thanks to Brian Fox's late winner, they got the job done.

Those two victories make it four for Tipp since 2017. In 2016, they had four wins as they reached the All-Ireland semi-final, bridging a gap to 1935.

Conor Sweeney has been consistently brilliant for Tipp in the modern era and regularly causes Cork problems, just like Declan Browne did in the '90s and noughties. 

He told the Irish Examiner earlier this week: “This is only my second Munster final, and I’ve been around a long time. We've a chance to rectify it this year and if we get the job done on Sunday, it will more than make up for it.

"Young players coming up, they need to see us playing in top divisions, they need to see us playing against good teams, they need to see us playing on the television, they need to see us winning and enjoying it. 

"If we can bring that to the fore this year and over the next couple of years, football will be in a good place, because we have to compete with the hurlers. That’s just the bottom line. That is the way it has been, and that is the way it will be."

While not as extreme as the scenario in Tipperary, Cork football lives in the shadow of hurling too. That's why this weekend is an opportunity too good to pass up.

There won't be any supporters in the Páirc, but the country will be tuned in on RTE 2 for the 1.30pm throw-in. Ronan McCarthy's side basked in the plaudits after beating Kerry but must back that up now. 

Having a weekend's break in between that sensational Sunday and the Munster final will have grounded Cork. The A versus B game at training will have sharpened the players' minds when you consider Cathail O'Mahony, last year's U20 All-Ireland final Man of the Match, is among those pushing to make the squad of 26 this time. 

You can be sure Luke Connolly, Paul Kerrigan, Michael Hurley, Keane and co were driving to force their way into the starting 15.

Ronan McCarthy was in the defence when Cork last faced Tipp in the provincial decider, in 2002 when they should have been beaten in Thurles but rescued a draw through Colin Corkery's shooting and then dominated the replay.

Colin Corkery in action against Tipp's Fergal O'Callaghan, in 2002. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Colin Corkery in action against Tipp's Fergal O'Callaghan, in 2002. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

He'll have a reference point for any Rebel getting complacent.

Cian O'Neill's experience in the coaching set-up means Cork's game-plan will be drafted with Tipp in mind, not just a carbon copy of what worked against Kerry.

Anyway, the players shouldn't need any extra motivation whatsoever. It's only two years ago that Cork followed up a Munster final walloping at the hands of Kerry with a similarly chastening loss to Tyrone. 

Kevin Flahive, Ian Maguire, Mark Collins, Ruairí Deane, Sean White, Connolly, Mattie Taylor, Killian O'Hanlon, Kerrigan and the Hurleys all featured that day. Current panellists Sam Ryan and Cian Kiely also played in Portlaoise.

Those dark days need to be consigned to the past.

Niall Morgan of Tyrone taking on Donncha O'Connor, in his last game for Cork. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Niall Morgan of Tyrone taking on Donncha O'Connor, in his last game for Cork. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

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