SATURAY: Cork v Kerry, Páirc Uí Rinn, 5pm.
IF you apply simple logic then expect a Cork win by a large margin when they take on Kerry in their second Munster championship tie.
Last week the Rebels got their campaign off to a winning start against Waterford, by 3-22 to 0-7, a game they dominated from start to finish. Go back a week and Waterford defeated Kerry by 1-12 to 2-4, so logically it should be a stroll in the Páirc for Cork tomorrow.
It would be no great surprise if it is, considering the form they showed in the latter stages of the league and then against the Déise last Sunday.
Cork, in that form, are a match for any side in the country and there are few who would live with them.
The frightening thing for all their opponents is that manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, feels they are far fitter and sharper now than they were in the league and though he never takes anything for granted he was happy with their display last week.
Can’t really blame him as they brushed aside the challenge of a Waterford side who had won the Division 2 league title, again defeating Kerry in the final.
In that game they showed impressive form with the likes of Eimear Fennell and Maria Delahunty impressing for Waterford as Kerry couldn’t live with their pace.
But, and to be fair, it’s only a small but in this case, Cork v Kerry games take on a life of their own. So while they can be fully confident in their own ability Cork won’t be taking anything for granted and will look back to the Munster final last year for a sharp reminder of what Kerry can do.
In that tie they were losing by four or five points at half-time as the Kingdom dominated the first-half.
The Rebels turned it around after the break to win back the Munster title, having not reached the final the previous year after both Kerry and Waterford had beaten them in the round-robin ties.
Those losses came after Cork has won the league title a few weeks previously, so no doubt this was very much on the mind of Ephie ahead of last week’s game and their win showed there is no complacency in the squad.
He now has a full squad to pick from, except for his captain Doireann O’Sullivan. She has been plagued with a back injury and has only played for a few minutes in the league, coming on in one game late on.
Since then she has not featured and is unlikely to return to action for another few weeks. It will possibly be July before she will be fit to return.
Even though she would be far happier on the pitch the injury has given her plenty of time to see where the Rebels are at and what they can expect tomorrow from Kerry.
“It’s really exciting to be playing a double-header with the men (who take on Limerick in the Munster semi-final at 7pm). Bigger crowds and atmosphere and it makes it a better occasion.
“It feels like championship football and it’s something to look forward to and Cork and Kerry in the Munster championship is always a game you can’t wait to be involved in.
“Sometimes form guides can go out the window when we clash with them and we know that we will have to put in a performance if we are to win. They won’t be coming up here just to make up the numbers and they gave us a tough test in the final last year.
“We didn’t qualify for the Munster final two years ago and last year Tipp ran us close and Kerry ran us close. The Munster championship can be extremely competitive in all codes and they have been a formidable outfit for some time.
“They have some marquee forwards in the likes of Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Sarah Houlihan who take some stopping, so they are a serious outfit and we will have to be at our best to stop them.
“The league is well and truly parked for us ahead of the Waterford game and you are not going to look back in six months and say that was a good league win.
“We want to win the Munster title and then hopefully give a good account of ourselves in the All-Ireland campaign.
“The panel is probably the most competitive we have had in some time and you are not only competiting to get on the starting 15 but to be one of the subs that come on.
“When you have the likes of Saoirse Noonan coming off the bench it shows the strength in depth we now have, as she would start for nearly every other county. Unless you are training and going well in training then you are under pressure to get a starting spot and that is a good thing for us as a squad,” concluded Doireann.
In her absence the likes of Eimear Scally, Orla Finn and Orlagh Farmer to see them through, backed up by Hannah Looney and Melissa Duggan in defence.
Expect Cork to take the points and advance to the Munster final, where they will face Waterford again.