After a series of low blows, Cork footballers deserve to hit the heights

After a series of low blows, Cork footballers deserve to hit the heights

Mark Collins was on a pile of ball against Kerry. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

IT might be two days after the fact but the sweet feeling lingers on.

Mark Keane you beauty! Just 20 years of age and domiciled in Australia for two seasons, Keane wasn't on the radar of too many Leesiders before this weekend.

After his match-winning goal against Kerry, no one will ever forget him now, regardless of how the rest of his career goes, with Collingwood and beyond. 

Beforehand we questioned how another Mitchelstown footballer, Cathail O'Mahony, wasn't included in the squad. Keane made up for his omission, a year after O'Mahony shone in Cork's All-Ireland U20 final triumph over Dublin. 

Provided O'Mahony gets a run of training sessions between here and the Munster final, two Mitchelstown players should be in the panel. If last weekend proved anything it was how the deep pool of talent in Cork gives them a platform to challenge for trophies in the coming years.

Ronan McCarthy called on nine of his bench between normal and extra time, with Seán Powter, Ian Maguire and Killian O'Hanlon all hobbling off after giving absolutely everything. Luke Connolly and Keane were the standout replacements, but Tadhg Corkery, Paul Ring, Michael Hurley and Paul Kerrigan were heavily involved too. 

There was no silverware handed out at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday. In fact, the task for Cork now is to stay grounded for a Munster final against a Tipp team with absolutely no fear of the Rebels.

Still, it was a special, special victory. Cork hadn't beaten Kerry in championship since 2012 and in a knockout clash for 21 years. It was pretty wet in the Páirc in '99 too of course.

The bookies had Ronan McCarthy's troops as 5-1 underdogs and if there was someone out there who tipped Cork to win we didn't come across their preview. Plenty made a case for a competitive game. An upset seemed fanciful in the extreme.

What was clear from the early exchanges, was the Cork players believed completely they could upset the Kingdom. And conversely, Kerry were a bit complacent. Despite being rattled in last year's Munster decider, they were looking beyond this.

Now, Kerry had enough chances to win. They'd more wides and looked more likely to grab a goal. Full credit of course to Micheál Martin for a very good first-half save. 

Micheál Martin of Cork saves a goalbound shot by Brian Ó Beaglaíoch. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Micheál Martin of Cork saves a goalbound shot by Brian Ó Beaglaíoch. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Connolly was obviously attempting a levelling point when the ball dropped into Keane's grasp for the winning goal but there was a bit of poetic justice in that. 

Go back to the 2015 Munster final in Killarney when Cork were the better team throughout. Fionn Fitzgerald popped up with an equaliser from long range when he had been actually trying to drive it into the edge of the square.

Cork lost the reply and then limped out of the qualifiers against Kildare. The Rebels haven't beaten an elite county in the period since.

Until Sunday that is!

And what a privilege it was to be there as Keane smashed home his goal.

All press-box decorum was gone as the net exploded. We would have gladly settled for penalties at that juncture.

Instead, Keane emulated Tadhgie Murphy’s 1983 effort. The lap-top nearly went flying out over the edge of the stand as we leapt from our seats. There’s no neutrality when the stakes are so high.

It was an incredible way to win. An extraordinary result in an extraordinary year.

As copy was being filed from the Páirc an hour after the final whistle, locals were driving their cars around the stadium beeping their horns, hanging out car windows and roaring ‘Come on the Rebels’. Fans might not have been allowed access but they sure as hell were going to mark the occasion.

A Joe Biden victory rally moved to Leeside!

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