IT’S not exactly a glamour fixture, particularly as it clashes on Saturday night with the Liverpool and Spurs showdown in the Champions League, but the stakes are still high.
Only the diehards will be at Páirc Uí Rinn this weekend for the Cork footballers’ Munster semi-final against Limerick, which is preceded by the ladies footballers’ tie with Kerry. Yet if the Rebels get the job done they’ll be one win away from the Super 8s.
For Kevin Flahive the disappointment of relegation in the league has been parked up. Yes, dropping down to Division 3 was a blow but it doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact in the championship.
“We have no excuses. After the league, we went back to the clubs and then it’s like another mini-pre-season again. We’ve put in savage training, in the sun, thank God, and we’ve played challenge games, we’ve kept the intensity up.
“We got relegated, but that’s for next year. We parked that, the mood is good in the camp and we’re ready to go.”
That it’s Limerick, rather than Tipp, they’re meeting is a surprise. For the Douglas club man, the Shannonsiders have plenty of decent footballers and anyone expecting a stroll in the Páirc is way off the mark.
“We played Limerick earlier in the year and they were a big, physical team. My last year U21 Limerick brought us right to the wire. Very good team.
“When Limerick beat Tipp, it might have looked from the outside like a shock, but we know they’re a good team and we’ll be well prepared for them the next day.
“It was seven points in the end and if we beat Tipp by seven points we’d be over the moon. We rate them highly.”
Kerry are clearly miles ahead of the rest of the province, but Flahive believes the other counties shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Before the weekend you might have thought Clare would beat Waterford well but they only won by a point. That’s a good Clare team, they beat us in the league.
“That’s football all the way, every team is fit, every team’s strong, and Limerick will be a very tough game. A couple of years ago I was playing in America and there were a couple of Limerick lads there who were top notch. UL had a very good Sigerson team, too.”
The Sigerson Cup victory obviously gave Flahive a confidence boost during the spring.
“It was fantastic. Last year we were unlucky in the Sigerson but this year there was something special in the team.
“The Sigerson is a weird competition where you don’t get to train as much, and I think it deserves more respect as a competition in that it’s thrown into the middle of the league.
“Most of the players are inter-county players as well so you can be playing on a Sunday, then on a Wednesday night, Sunday, Wednesday, so it’s very tough to train in between those. But personally it was a massive achievement, something I’ll cherish.”
The Billy Morgan factor was key of course.
“Working with Billy, he’s such a special manager and a special man. His passion is something you’d aspire to yourself. When I’m older if I still have that I’ll be delighted!”
Flahive may have lifted silverware at third level, and with the Cork U21s, but he agrees that the county need to start making inroads at minor and in the schools to keep pace with Kerry.
“If you asked the Kerry lads I guarantee they’d say that 90% of the time their toughest game every year was Cork.
“It comes back a bit to the schools, and the Corn Uí Mhuirí, too. When I was in school I don’t think it got the respect it deserved, but it’s considered very highly in Kerry.
“If enough emphasis is put on the schools it’ll help, from First Year on. Playing against and marking different players helps to change your game. I found that in UCC and in schools games.
“Kerry have won a lot at Corn Uí Mhuirí in the last few years and that helps at minor level. They’ve won a good few Munster senior titles and our hope now is to get over Limerick and really have a crack off Kerry then.
“Hopefully that seeps down the grades then, we’ve been competing all the way up.”