CORK'S worst fears have been confirmed by news that defender Kevin Flahive tore his cruciate in the defeat by Kerry in the Munster semi-final at the weekend.
It means the 26-years-old Douglas player's season is over, adding to an already decimated squad of long-time injuries and forcing interim manager John Cleary to delve deeper into the panel.
Flahive earned rave reviews for restricting Kerry dangerman David Clifford to just a single point from play in Kerry's 0-23 to 0-11 success just like vice-captain Sean Meehan 12 months ago in Killarney.
But, he suffered a similar fate, when suffering a serious hamstring injury in the league defeat by Galway and will play no further part for Cork either.
Meanwhile, the role of substitute goalkeeper is a lonely one in any team. They’re frequently the forgotten-about player, wearing number 16 and consigned to the bench, rarely summoned for action.
It does happen that they do get the nod, normally in an injury situation just like the case with Dylan Foley (Eire Og) last Saturday.
For the second season in-a-row regular custodian Micheal Aodh Martin (Nemo Rangers) had to limp off injured, replaced by Mark White (Clonakilty) last season and by Foley on this occasion.
Foley, a UCC student, is an interesting case because he’s not his club’s netminder. That rests with Chris Kelly, who is Martin’s understudy, but injured.
Kelly played in the third league in Derry and in the next outing at home to Galway at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, where he sustained the injury, Martin taking over.
He stayed there for the concluding three games Meath, Down and Offly, when Gavin Creedon (Kilshannig), last season’s U20 number 1, took over the substitute’s slot.
But, for the subsequent games Foley wore the number 16 jersey, presumably on the basis Creedon had also picked up an injury along the way.
Foley usually plays right corner-forward for Eire Og and he has an eye for goal, as in helping the Ovens club to county minor success in 2017.
More recently, Foley helped himself to 1-2 in the 2020 county senior A final victory over Mallow, a game played in June last year.
And in their maiden appearance in the premier championship, Foley was among the goal once more as Eire Og shocked Carbery Rangers by 1-15 to 1-9.
One of his earliest listings as a goalkeeper was in Cork’s successful 2020 John Kerins Cup campaign, when Foley was understudy to Josh O’Keeffe (Newmarket).
But, at the start of this year, both Foley and Creedon were vying for the keeper’s jersey in UCC’s Sigerson Cup effort with Foley getting the call against MTU Cork and UCD.
Twenty-three minutes into the Kerry encounter, Ryan was plunged into his Cork debut and had the satisfaction of helping keep the champions goal-less for the first time this year.
Just after the hour, he dashed quickly off his line to bravely block David Clifford’s attempt at goal to impress the crowd of 10,743.
Of course, Foley isn’t unique in turning from outfield player to keeper with the retired Stephen Cluxton the leading example.
It was a seriously daunting challenge for the College student because goalkeeping isn’t about shot-stopping or organisation anymore with a huge emphasis on the kick-out now.
Kerry put the rookie under intense scrutiny in this regard, notably in the second-half, when pressing high up the pitch.
The intention was to go short, but Kerry blocked that avenue, forcing Foley to go long, where the introduction of David Moran only strengthened their grip around the middle.
Tactically, Cork played it sensibly by withdrawing Sean Powter (Douglas) from centre-forward to play as a sweeper in front of returning full-back Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty).
The idea was to prevent Kerry getting a clear run on the Cork goal and it worked well with Shanley bringing much-needed physicality to an area in which Cork dealt with the imposing threat impressively enough.
Newcomers in the half-back line, John Cooper (Eire Og) and Rory Maguire (Castlehaven), also did well on their first day out while Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers) was his usual tidy self, surging forward to land Cork’s ninth point after 47 minutes.
Powter’s diversion from attack to defence meant Kerry centre-back Tadhg Morley had a decision to make, stay put and help mind the house or venture forward.
Even though it was six against five, the Templenoe defender stayed back which makes the contributions of Steven Sherlock and Cathail O’Mahony all the more praiseworthy.
“Steven and Cathail are more than capable, that’s what they can do,” said Cleary afterwards.
“Some of their points were out of the top drawer and they were kicking under pressure because this Kerry back line doesn’t concede that much.”