Cork must now show that the mauling by Kerry wasn’t a true reflection of their abilities

Cork must now show that the mauling by Kerry wasn’t a true reflection of their abilities
Cork's Jamie O'Sullivan makes a tackle on Kerry's Paul Geaney. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT'S by no means a phenomenon unique to Cork, but when things go badly, we always focus our attention inwards when trying to establish what happened.

So it was that a 17-point defeat in Saturday evening’s Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was greeted with the usual cries about the changing of structures, directors of football and outside managers.

Never mind the fact that a win in the qualifiers will put Cork in the Super 8s, this is once again a Big Crisis For Cork Football. 

Admittedly, the Kerry manager may not be regarded as the best witness, but he was asked about Cork retreating into their shell and, instead of dealing in platitudes, he rightly pointed out that his team had played quite well.

“No more than what I said about the goals that Cork got,” he said, ‘sometimes you've to take your hat off to the opposition and say they played well.

“I think our lads got a lot right today, there's plenty to work on again but sometimes when you come up against a team that are playing like that, it can be hard.

“I've no doubt they've a couple of weeks to gather themselves and no more than what they did to Mayo last year when they could have and probably should have beaten them in Limerick, I'm sure there'll be a big response there in a couple of weeks.”

If Tipperary were playing Kerry on Saturday evening and had lost by 17 points, how would such a defeat had been regarded? Would every football problem in the county be distilled into one result?

Cork were regarded as slight favourites at best before they went to Thurles to face Tipp five weeks ago, but one good result in that game – an 11-point win – should have been regarded as signalling that Cork were back in the upper echelons.

As Eamonn Fitzmaurice said, Kerry were playing well and it was difficult for any side to stop them on Saturday. Cork weren’t at Kerry’s level before the game and needed everything to go right with a lot going wrong for the visitors, but instead a lot went right after a shaky start.

That doesn’t absolve Cork, obviously – the two early goals were the result of a plan to hit Kerry from the start but, with that having come off, it was almost a case of ‘That actually worked, what the hell do we do now?’.

The silver lining is that Cork won’t be facing Kerry in the qualifiers, or anyone in the same league as Kerry. It may be Mayo providing the opposition, but they are not yet at the levels of the past few years, ditto Tyrone.

No doubt there will be some people who will say that Cork would be better losing a qualifier game by a point and avoiding three beatings in the Super 8s, but development comes from exposure to the best. No team ever grew in easy steps with no setbacks, and the challenge for Cork now is to show that Saturday wasn’t a true reflection of them.

As a parallel point, there is no doubting that Kerry are miles ahead in Munster, the same way Dublin are in Leinster and nationally and Donegal seem to be in Ulster, with the Connacht final the only one which was any way competitive.

The level of quality is more stretched than at possibly any other team in the history of the GAA and, just as appointing an outside manager won’t make Cork one of the top teams again, neither will a tiered championship solve football’s disparity.

A word about the Leinster final, as we’re here. Dublin’s eighth title in a row was never in doubt and Laois can hardly claim that the similarity of the teams’ colours was a factor, but still, surely the Leinster Council should have insisted that one or both sides change jerseys?

In the 2017 national league, Cavan wore white and Dublin navy when they met in Kingspan Breffni Park, but in the current championship Dublin have played Wicklow, Longford and now Laois – all primarily royal blue with white as a secondary colour – and no change has been ordered.

In an era when many counties are wearing alternative kits as a means of marketing, there is simply no excuse for teams to be playing such a big game with the kits to be lacking distinction.

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