THE Cork footballers are now Rebels with a cause.
Keith Ricken's squad have decided it's 'Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere' after the players and management met on Thursday night to respond to the Munster Council's announcement that they must give up home advantage for the provincial semi-final against Kerry on May 7.
They are refusing to agree to the move away from the Boreenamanna Road venue, despite its restricted capacity. To add to the drama, it was announced on Friday that the game is being shown by Sky Sports, rather than RTE, so only GAA fans with the subscription service will be able to watch it on TV.
The footballers' official statement reads: “As players and management our sole focus is on preparing and playing to the best of our ability next month in the Munster Championship, representing our families, our clubs and our county. We did not envisage needing to issue this statement.
“Cork and Kerry have long had an agreement in place to decide home and away fixtures. This year’s fixture is a home game for Cork, as initially announced in a press release by Munster GAA on March 4.
“We believe the decision made this week by the Munster Council must be reversed. The decision to take the game to Killarney is driven by the financial benefits resulting from a larger crowd. We feel this reasoning sets a bad precedent, it is wrong and it goes against the values of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
We've seen similar scenarios in recent years, including the 'Newbridge or nowhere' standoff when Kildare kept home advantage in the qualifiers against Mayo instead of shifting to Croke Park.
The game was originally slated to be played at the venue on 7 May because Páirc Uí Chaoimh was unavailable due to the Ed Sheeran at the end of April. It's a similar scenario for the Cork hurlers, whose home games in the Munster round-robin are Limerick and Clare. They'll welcome Limerick to the Páirc on Easter Sunday but the Clare clash has been moved to Thurles by agreement.
The Cork hurlers traditionally do well in Thurles while the footballers haven't beaten Kerry in Killarney since 1995.
Munster GAA moved the Cork-Kerry tie to Fitzgerald Stadium due to concerns over the capacity. While there had been hopes Páirc Uí Rinn could be upgraded to facilitate 15,000, having been used for the Cork hurlers' qualifier win over Dublin back in 2016, it was revealed that even if necessary remedial work is carried out the maximum it could take is 11,000.
The last three Old Firm battles have had an average of 22,000 but those were finals and given the Cork footballers just avoided relegation to Division 3 and were hammered by Kerry last year, the crowd would be way down on that.
Kerry have over 3,000 season-ticket holders but the Cork footballers are one of the worst supporters teams in the country. If Páirc Uí Rinn had been able to take 15,000 it certainly would have catered for demand and even 11,000 would cover those with a strong interest.