Cork v Kerry: Performance the priority for defiant Rebel footballers

Cork have the firepower to trouble many teams but hosting their great rivals means they're heading into Páirc Uí Rinn as massive underdogs
Cork v Kerry: Performance the priority for defiant Rebel footballers

St Finbarr's talisman Steven Sherlock will be a crucial member of the Cork attack against Kerry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK’S ‘Páirc Uí Rinn or nowhere’ stand paid off but the real challenge awaits tomorrow evening.

Home advantage will only carry the Rebels so far against a Kerry outfit operating on a different level altogether, Division 1 league winners, arriving on Leeside as the most unbackable favourites.

Absolutely nobody is expecting Cork to win but the players certainly have to perform with controlled aggression and huge passion. To fight to the bitter end. Otherwise, their refusal to travel over the county bounds will have been for nothing.

Cork's Cian Kiely shoots from Waterford's Conor Walsh during the McGrath Cup at Páirc Uí Rinn earlier this season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Cian Kiely shoots from Waterford's Conor Walsh during the McGrath Cup at Páirc Uí Rinn earlier this season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The absence of Ian Maguire through injury weakens the midfield, so work-rate and intensity in that sector will be more important than ever. Seán Powter’s return will help in that regard while Colm O’Callaghan will need to be a presence in the air.

Cork curbed David Clifford in last year’s meeting but just to make things more difficult, All-Star nominated defender Seán Meehan is another marked absent. Clifford is box-office but Seán O’Shea is an elite talent as well. Then you’ve Paul Geaney, Paudie Clifford and the rest.

Cork do have a bit of punch in attack themselves. Brian Hurley will captain the team and, despite his own injury issues over the years, is always an absolute joy to watch. Indeed he managed to pilfer 1-3 last season in that dismal 22-point hammering.

Brian Hurley. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Brian Hurley. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Steven Sherlock was excellent in the league, to the tune of 1-36 in five games, and, along with Sam Ryan, this week made the AIB Club Team of the Year after St Finbarr’s reached the All-Ireland semi-final. Cathail O’Mahony is a serious shooter too, though, like so many Cork footballers, has also been dogged with injuries.

Cork will need them firing and to make every chance count. Still, not even the most optimistic Rebel anticipates a win.

Kerry legend Darragh Ó Sé had to concede in his Irish Times column this week: “There is no doubt that Kerry are heading in the right direction. Even the cutest Kerryman would struggle to yerra his way out of something that obvious. It wasn’t just the fact that they won the league that was impressive. It was the way they did it.”

When Darragh Ó Sé is all out of ‘yerras’...

It’s been an extremely difficult era for Cork football. There was a decent run to the Super 8s in 2019 alright, the same season the minors and U20s lifted All-Ireland titles. Kerry were stunned in the Munster semi-final the following winter but the subsequent loss to Tipp at Páirc Uí Chaoimh derailed that group, which was why they were filleted in Killarney last summer.

New manager Keith Ricken had to step away due to illness with John Clearly taking over but at least relegation to Division 3 was avoided before the controversy over the venue for this Munster semi-final.

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