IN terms of being a Cork football follower, was Saturday last the Everest of such an existence?
Possibly, but such measurements are rather challenging. However, you could argue that a period of the day had the potential to reverse the big ball train back into the dark dreary station.
Before all that though, I would think that it is fair to assume, that quite a few GAA folk from these parts, decided that their Bank Holiday Saturday entertainment, would involve a trip to Portlaoise to cast an eye on both Cork U20 teams. In the recent Munster final, the hurling side leaked a late, late green flag against Tipperary to lose their Munster crown.
The football representatives gathered some media interest when they did what no Cork team had achieved in three years, in lowering the Green and Gold flag in the Munster final.
Portlaoise is accessible and the cohort of fans, from the southern county, came from all categories. Family units, couples, young and old, some who knew all about Amber and Greg and their buddies from Love Island, but had never been present for a unique cultural experience of Cyril singing The Banks.
The hurling team delivered, helped in no small way, by a goal from Midleton’s Tommy O’Connell.
The fact that Tipperary rattled in eight goals against Wexford the following day ensured that, for the second year in a row, the Munster final pairing of Cork and Tipperary will contest the All-Ireland final. It should be some encounter and it will offer Cork an opportunity to alter those stats in relation to an All-Ireland drought.
It is 14 years since Liam last paid a visit, 18 since the county last climbed the steps to collect the All-Ireland minor trophy and all of 21 years since a Cork captain made a victory speech with the big U21/U20 canister in his hand. An opportunity too, maybe to harden Cork’s soft image.
Time now to pay homage to this Cork football team.
After a dozen minutes, all was up in smok. Those with lingering doubts were proven right, the exits were checked again. As it was only a 30-minute half, another 20 minutes won’t be long going.
Make no mistake, a portion of Cork football’s future was in the balance. What young lads would want to kick a football around Páirc Uí Rinn in 24 hours time?
What about those people, who so desperately want to have a Cork football team, as their army of convenience? What about those people who dreamed of one day heading into Killarney, for a big showdown, where expectancy rather than hope would be the mode of transport?
Yet early on in this All-Ireland final, Portlaoise was getting ready for evacuation.
Down seven points against Tyrone and they returned to the winners’ enclosure.
This time, JP Murphy’s son, Blake, took a pass from one of the Cronins, Mark, and hammered home.
Was it an oasis in the desert, a dead cat’s bounce or a catalyst to keep football as a relevant sport for young Cork athletes? Cronin pointed and then hit an absolute beauty, eyes off the exits.
An awesome opening of the blue sea, by the pair of Cork midfielders and Éire Óg’s Colm O’Callaghan, raised the third green. Then they got the white flags moving. The finishers were Damien Gore (probably one of the few footballers to come from Glandore), Cathal O’Mahony and Daniel O’Connell. Half-time and, unbelievably, Cork were two in front.
Prior to escaping to the dressing rooms, it was time to breathe in some of the Rebel roar.
A defence that had nerves and handling issues earlier on, were now in full security alert. Up front, Mark Cronin, Cathal O’Mahony, and Gore accounted for 11 of Cork’s 16 points.
At the final sounding, Cork were eight to the good. Down nine, win by eight, a new way of looking at symmetry.
Now a little perspective. Does Saturday’s triumph mean a Sam visit is imminent? Not at all, but then again 2019 from late spring on, was never about Sam, it was about survival.
If any of the other leading counties won this competition, it would not get much mention, but its unexpected arrival in this county has been a massive boost.
There is no denying that there is still a huge body of work to be done to get Cork senior footballers viewed as All-Ireland contenders.
Some have commented on the speed, at which the five-year plan was completed, again delusion comes to mind. Saturday’s victory, and other apparent 2019 progress, should be viewed as a source of inspiration to drive the plan.
Anyway, back again to Portlaoise and what an outpouring of red positive energy, that prevailed throughout the stadium, long after the final whistle. Young Cork people basking in the day of an All-Ireland winning football team, kids kicking football at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday.
For all those mighty men and women, who kept the Cork flag flying when the lights were out, you can now take a serious bow. For all those present in Portlaoise, the perfect day was made more perfect, when their artistic taste buds were treated to the mighty Cyril, bellowing out The Banks.
Love Island is now Love Rebel Football.
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org @paudiep