ONE thing is guaranteed in the Cork-Kildare Division 2 South league game in Thurles on Saturday-nobody will complain about the carpet that is Semple Stadium’s surface.
It was a far different cry in the counties’ last engagement two years ago at Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the pitch cut badly and hindered both sets of players.
The game was the second in Division 2 and was played on the first Saturday in February, producing a Kildare win by a goal, 1-10 to 0-10, despite finishing with 13 men and Cork 14.
The only goal came from a penalty after just 11 minutes and the treacherous surface had a role to play, as well.
Cork midfielder Ronan O’Toole slipped in attempting to react to a great block down in the home defence and fouled Jimmy Hyland in the process.
It was a clear-cut penalty and Cork had no arguments as the experienced Kevin Feely trotted up from midfield to give keeper Mark White no chance with a lot shot to the bottom right corner.
It was a big moment in the game with the Lillywhites turning around with a 1-4 to 0-5 advantage though Cork restored parity at 1-5 to 0-8 by the 41st minute, when Kildare lost Fergal Conway to a black card, having been shown a yellow in the first-half.
The visitors’ greater experience told, however, particularly with the introduction of Neil Flynn, who scored the closing three points for Kildare.
They outscored Cork by 0-5 to 0-2 in the wake of Conway’s dismissal, but also had luck on their side as the home side reckon they lost out on 1-4 from shots striking the frame of the goal.
Another defining moment came eight minutes from the end of regulation time, when Ruairi Deane soloed through the defence before unleashing a piledriver, which Kildare keeper Mark Donnellan brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar.
Michael Hurley was Cork’s most productive forward with 0-5 in a game which yielded two red cards late on, Kildare’s Keith Cribbin dispatched in the first of five added-on minutes before Brian Hurley joined him close to the final whistle.
Much has changed in the two years with Cork likely to included only half-a-dozen survivors, Kevin O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor in defence, Ian Maguire at midfield and Mark Collins, Luke Connolly and Deane up front.
The Jack O’Connor-coached Kildare could have as many as eight starters from that afternoon based on the team’s last competitive outing, the Leinster semi-final defeat by Meath, who scored five second-half goals, last season.
It’s also not the first time Cork and Kildare have rubbed shoulders in Thurles as they met in round 4 of the qualifiers in 2015 with the Leinster storming to a resounding 1-21 to 1-13 triumph.
Collins is set to be the only Cork survivor from that best-forgotten evening.
The counties also squared up in the 2017 division 2 league campaign with home advantage standing up in Newbridge, where Kildare made light of the wretched conditions in a 1-14 to 1-8 success.
M Hurley 0-5, L Connolly 0-2, 1f, R Deane, S White 0-1 each, M Collins 0-1f.
K Feely 1-1, 1-0 pen, N Flynn 0-3, 1’45, A Tyrrell 0-2f, B McCormack 0-2, J Hyland and F Dowling 0-1 each.
M White (Clonakilty); K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), K Flahive (Douglas), C Dennehy (St Finbarr’s); J Loughrey (Mallow), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s, c), R O’Toole (Éire Óg); T Clancy (Fermoy), E McSweeney (Knocknagree), M Collins (Castlehaven); M Hurley (do), R Deane (Bantry Blues), L Connolly (Nemo Rangers).
P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers) for McSweeney, half-time, S White (Clonakilty) for O’Toole 48, L O’Donovan (Clonakilty) for Loughrey 53, B Hurley (Castlehaven) for Connolly 55, K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig) for Clancy 61.
M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, D Hyland; J Murray, E Doyle, captain, K Cribbin; K Feely, F Dowling; C Hartley, F Conway, D Slattery; A Tyrrell, B McCormack, J Hyland.
A Masterson for Hartley half-time, N Flynn for Dowling 44, C O’Donoghue for Murray 53, E O’Flaherty for Tyrrell 57, J Gibbons for Hyland 66.
S Lonergan (Tipperary).