Cork football fans dare to dream again as there's no reprieve for Kerry this time

Cork football fans dare to dream again as there's no reprieve for Kerry this time

A NEW DAWN: Cork supporter Ronan Canavan outside Páirc Uí Chaoimh following the Munster championship upset win over Kerry on Sunday. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

WE ARE facing multiple recounts across the pond in the US election but there will be no reprieve for Kerry.

Their last-second 1-12 to 0-13 defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final at a rain-soaked Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday evening sends them out of the championship.

Mitchelstown’s, or should I say Collingwood’s, Mark Keane became this generation’s Tadhg Murphy with his late heroics. He eliminated Kerry from the race for Sam Maguire in old-style fashion.

For long-suffering Cork supporters it was a thing of beauty, but imagine what it must have felt like for the players and management?

The Cork footballers have been nothing but maligned since that horrible day in 2015 in Thurles when they lost in nebbish fashion to Kildare in a qualifier. Anyone there that day thought Cork had hit rock bottom.

Yet Cork football kept digging for another few years, with relegation to Division 3 in early 2019 being the moment when the spade finally struck solid ground.

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy was part of the backroom team previously, and he made that awkward exposed walk from the dressing room to team bus too many times in recent years. A lot of this current side had endured days where they probably thought about packing it all in.

Sunday was the reward for their considerable efforts.

There will be articles written about this game for the next quarter of a century.

Keane is going to get phone calls from journalists for the rest of his life to recall the moment he caught Luke Connolly’s haymaker and stuck it in the back of Shane Ryan’s net. McCarthy and his crew should enjoy it, as they deserve it.

They have taken an awful lot of stick, some of it in these pages, but on here they ensured that Cork football was once again headline-news, and for the right reasons.

This win was all the sweeter when you consider that McCarthy was robbed of the services of Kevin Crowley, Liam O’Donovan, Tomás Clancy, and Ciarán Sheehan through injury, while none of Cathail O’Mahony, James Loughrey, Cian Kiely, Nathan Walsh, Brian Hartnett, Mark White, Blake Murphy, or Eoghan McSweeney were in the panel either for a variety of reasons.

When you add the 26 players that were celebrating on Sunday night to that crew and throw in a few more not yet involved from the U20 and minor All-Ireland victories from last year then it is quite clear that Cork have a considerable pool to pick from.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks it is clear that if Cork keep their eye on the ball that they can get back to the top table that they have not been able to get an invite to for some time now.

Kerry were probably delighted when they saw the selection of the inexperienced pair of Clonakilty’s Maurice Shanley and Kiskeam’s Sean Meehan to man the Cork spine.

McCarthy obviously felt that his side lacked physicality in these positions and opted to gamble on youth. Well, it worked!

Meehan may have hugged the right flank for most of the game, rather than the centre, but it was his drive from deep from the left wing-back channel that ultimately engineered the opening that led to Connolly’s hit and hope that Keane goaled from.

Cork's Mark Keane celebrates after the game with Sean Meehan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Cork's Mark Keane celebrates after the game with Sean Meehan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Shanley, meanwhile, had a wonderful battle with Clifford for over 90 minutes, with Kerry’s golden boy being kept as quiet as possible. He managed 0-3 from play, and could have grabbed a crucial goal, but considering Clifford’s ability, Shanley did a remarkable and match-winning defensive display.

Shanley can take a lot of credit for his dogged efforts. Meehan and Shanley’s displays were even more notable when you consider that this time last year they would have been down the list in terms of the Cork U20 All-Ireland winners most likely to make the immediate step up to senior status.

Eire Óg’s Colm O’Callaghan also started, while Aghabullogue corner-back Paul Ring came on for extra time, and Damien Gore was introduced too, but there is more to come on that score. The great thing is that these youngsters do not know what losing to Kerry feels like.

Hopefully, that feeling continues.

A special word too for Sean Powter. He has had ridiculously bad luck on the injury front since his breakthrough year in 2017 and to get the Man of the Match award on such a historic night for Cork football will have felt extra special.

A Munster final with Tipperary now awaits, with the winner playing either Mayo or Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final on the first weekend of December.

One caveat amongst the hysteria. In 1983 Cork enjoyed the last-second victory a bit too early and left an All-Ireland behind them by allowing Dublin to beat them down the Park in a replay.

Would it be too much to ask for an upgrade on ’83..!

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