Whoever wins in the air will likely land the Munster football title

Whoever wins in the air will likely land the Munster football title

Aidan Walsh is tackled by Seandún’s Shane Buckley. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

ONCE again it will be the battle in the sky which will highly influence the outcome of the Kerry-Cork Munster football final in Killarney tomorrow, throw-in, 2pm.

Irrespective of who's wearing the eight and nine jerseys and probably the number 10 as well, it's imperative on the Cork duo to emulate the displays of Danny Culloty and Liam Honohan from 1995.

That was the last occasion a Cork side tasted victory over the old enemy at Fitzgerald Stadium, the pair combining to take a stranglehold of a game in which the visitors dominated, but struggled to get over the line.

Newmarket's Culloty and Bishopstown's Honohan were the main inspirations behind Cork's 0-15 to 1-9 triumph though the three-point winning margin greatly flattered the home side, whose goal from wing-back Eamon Breen came in the opening minutes.

The inability of the Cork forwards to translate hard-won possession into scores managed to keep Kerry in the contest right to the end before their fierce rivals could savour a third successive provincial final victory over the green and gold.

And whether it's Alan O'Connor and Aidan Walsh lining up for the start or any other combination involving Ruairí Deane or Ian Maguire, it's imperative they attempt to repeat the star displays from 22 years ago.

Indeed, they could also follow the lead taken by the Cork junior midfield partnership of Ronan O'Toole and Michael O'Leary from that amazing mid-week Munster final against Kerry at Páirc Uí Rinn.

One of the many, many sub-plots to an intriguing game, won by Kerry by 4-24 to 3-20 after extra-time, was the battle in the middle, where the Kingdom pair of Brendan O'Sullivan and Roibeárd Ó Sé also caught the eye.

Indeed, the ability of all four midfielders to win clean possession in the air, often under the most intense pressure, was one of several features of an absorbing contest, which fluctuated like no other.

In addition, it also showed the benefits of the 'mark', which, since its introduction earlier in the year, hasn't been universally accepted.

Those in the attendance of 929 will bear witness to its importance in reviving high fielding, one of the great characteristics of a sport badly in need of a boost to its imagine.

Indeed, Tipperary referee Sean Lonergan used his whistle to signal the 'mark' probably more often in that one game than several officials combined during the season.

Hence, there's a big onus on Cork to challenge the likely Kerry starting pair of David Moran and Jack Barry with Anthony Maher held in reserve in the critical middle third.

It's an area in which former Kerry great, Darragh Ó Sé, believes Cork can claim a decisive advantage.

Writing in his weekly column in a Dublin paper, Ó Sé, reckons the game is coming full circle again.

“It's getting back to the point, where if you dominate the middle third, you dominate the game.

“Win midfield and you give yourself a platform for the rest of it. That hasn't been the case for the past few years, but you can see it moving back that way now,” he wrote.

So, what do we want to see tomorrow? Is it Ken O'Halloran going short with his re-starts and Cork moving the ball at snail's pace through the lines or aiming to go long and high for O'Connor and company to compete in the air?

Getting back to '95, Cork had the wind at their backs in the first-half, but trailed by three points approaching the interval.

They restored parity, 0-7 to 1-4, for the second-half only to find themselves two adrift again after 53 minutes before the game finally swung Cork's way.

Don Davis and Colin Corkery levelled as Cork strung together a run of six unanswered points to finally reflect their superiority on the scoreboard.

The Cork half-back line of Ciarán O'Sullivan, Stephen O'Brien and Brian Corcoran was also highly instrumental in the victory. O'Sullivan, from Urhan, made up for missing the previous year's game due to a cruciate knee injury, by driving forward to land a couple of trademark points at critical stages of the contest.

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