Cork prepare for Kerry clash

Cork’s footballers are preparing for their make or break clash with Kerry this weekend.

The sides go head to head in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in their Munster Championship semi final clash on Sunday afternoon.

There’s no backdoor in the football championship this year, however Cork boss Ronan McCarthy says that won’t make too much of a difference to the way both counties will approach the game on Sunday.

“The backdoor came in in 2001. We beat Kerry in 1999 when I was playing, and we beat them in 2002 which was the second year of the back door.

“I remember being interviewed after the game and someone saying it was an unusual one in that it was a Munster semi final actually as well, and not only had we just beaten Kerry, we hadn’t won the Munster championship and Kerry weren’t out of the competition either.

“What I would say from my own impression of playing is that it didn’t make a difference if there was a back door, you went at the game hammer and tongs anyway. But I suppose it did impact on the outcome, as the likelihood was that you’d have to meet them further down the road again.

“That’s the nature of the backdoor, when it was there every team gets a second chance. This time if you do the job it’s one less team you have to meet further down the road. It’s as simple as that. Even if you win it [Sunday’s game], you still have to win another game to win the Munster competition.”

Sunday’s game is of course unusual on a number of fronts, what with it being a Munster championship game being played in November as well as it being played behind closed doors. McCarthy admits that the lack of a crowd does take a little something out of what would usually be a massive a occasion, but they’ll just have to get on with it.

“From the point of view of the games, and I’m talking about playing and managing, particularly playing, it takes so much of what’s great about it away when there’s no crowd there. There’s nothing like being inside in that dressing room under the stand a couple of minutes before you go out in a big game like that, and the band on the day and running out onto the pitch in front of a crowd. It’s what fellas live for.

“It was my ambition when I was playing that I wanted to know what it was like, and I’m privileged to have played in big matches like that in Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Killarney as well.

“Well just deal with that element of it, but it does take away from the spectacle.”

Cork were in terrific form in their Division 3 campaign before Covid-19 forced the Allianz League to be halted, before winning against Louth and having their game with Longford conceded upon the league’s resumption. McCarthy admits it’s been a little frustrating, but he says his team have been showing definite signs of improvement.

“This team I would have felt turned a corner last year. Obviously in my first year, 17/18 we had heavy defeats to Tyrone and Kerry in the championship. We only stayed up in division 2 on a head to head against Down in 2018, we finished on 6 points. In 2019 we were relegated, we got one point from our first 4 games.

“Obviously the players’ confidence must have been in their boots at that stage, and if you had looked at Cork football over the previous three or four years, you had a mix of low points, and a lot of ‘nearly’ games where we nearly broke through and took one of the big scalps.

“Players were at a fairly low point last February or March in 2018, we nearly pulled ourselves out of it, we won a great game above in Armagh on the last day – on 70 minutes we were in division 2, and on 71 minutes we were gone [following Clare’s late win over Tipperary].

“But through the challenge match circuit, through the Championship, through the Super 8’s, the players got themselves up by their boots and got motoring.

“I think the players overall are in a much more positive place, that comes with winning matches, it comes with the development of the squad and the panel over a number of years.

“We could have done without the break, but everyone is in the same boat, and that can’t be used as an excuse.”

Cork face Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday. We’ll preview the game on the Big Red Bench on Saturday at 6pm, along with all the big match reaction on Sunday’s show.

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