Cork stun Kerry as the Rebels march on

Have you recovered yet?

What drama in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Mark Keane plucks Luke Connolly’s shot out of the sky, smashes the ball home and Cork have done it. They’ve beaten Kerry. With the last kick of the game. In extra time. Cork are into the Munster Football Championship final. And they’ve done it by beating a team nobody fancied them to win. It’s a moment that will be talked about for decades to come.

Ruairi and Lauren were live on air at the time, and lost their minds slightly.

Nobody outside of Cork gave the Rebels much of a chance. You’d hope Pat Spillane’s piece in the Irish Independent was pinned to the dressing room wall as motivation for the Rebels.

pat spillane column

But against the odds, Cork did it. The game as a whole won’t live long in the memory, it was low scoring, played in torrential rain, with both teams defending in numbers. Cat and mouse stuff. But not many Cork people will remember that in the retelling of the game. Mark Keane’s goal has already entered the realm of legend.

Boss Ronan McCarthy masterminded the win, and was full of praise for his players when speaking to RedFM Sport’s Lauren Guilfoyle afterwards.

“I’m just delighted for the group of players, to be honest with you. They’ve been through a very dark place over the last couple of years, from heavy defeats in the championship and relegation to division 3.

“But we always felt that the quality was in the group. Confidence was shattered at one point. But they kept coming, they’re eager for learning, they’re eager to improve. We made incremental steps in the Super 8s last year, which really helped us. We came away from those games against Tyrone and Dublin, obviously the Kerry game last year, we also played Donegal in round six of the league last year – we were very close in those matches.

“The message we were trying to get across to the team is that we were in a better place, we had a stronger group, we had the injection of the under 20 [players], the All Ireland winning under 20s, but it was still going to be a huge ask [to beat Kerry].

“You don’t always get what you deserve, but we did today.”

Mark Keane’s last gasp goal with the last kick of the game will go down in Cork GAA legend. The Mitchelstown man was a surprise inclusion on the bench when the team was announced, given that Keane has been playing in the AFL with Collingwood and recently signed a new two year deal with the Melbourne side. McCarthy thanked Collingwood for allowing Keane to play in the game, and explained that the Australian side were more than happy to allow their player to line out for Cork.

“Well the first thing is the player wanted to play. The second thing is that we’d have done our business properly with Collingwood, we sought permission from them for Mark to play, and they gave it to us and we’re very grateful for it.

“Mark has a huge interest in Cork football. I think the thing about this group is that everybody who’s there, they’re 100% committed to Cork football. And that hasn’t been the case for 4 or 5 years. Maybe people thought there were pastures greener. This group here – Cork football is their number one priority.

“Mark was back about six weeks, obviously he needed to self isolate for the first two weeks. He’s back almost nearly as long as we’re back. Obviously he couldn’t train with us the first two weeks.

“The goal at the end even shows, he’s a great target for long balls. He’s a good passer of the ball, he set up some very important scores when were two down before the 70th minute and he set up that score.

“He’s a great target man, a great physical presence, and he’s added to the quality and depth in the group.”

For All Ireland winning former Cork captain Dinny Allen, the victory ranks up there with the all time great Cork v Kerry clashes.

“I go back to 1976, when we played in extra time and we lost [Kerry beat Cork 3-20 to 1-19 in the Munster Final replay in Páirc Uí Chaoimh] – I don’t like to use the word revenge but it’s a bit like that! And again in 1983 when Tadhg Murphy scored [Cork beat Kerry 3-10 to 3-9 in the Munster Final, also in Páirc uí Chaoimh.]

“It wasn’t a great match today, Cork had to play a certain way to beat Kerry. They did that and they stuck with it, and they deserved it out of sheer heart and concentration and they got their just rewards in the end.

“I’ll tell you straight – I didn’t think Cork would win. And the main reason was I didn’t think they had as much heart as they had today. Cork have been playing in the third division, and playing inferior teams than teams in the second and first divisions. Kerry have been used to playing those games.

“The games in the divisions above you are faster games. If you play in third division, you play a certain standard and a certain speed of the game. The higher up you go the faster the games get, and I was worried the game could be too fast for them today.  But it wasn’t.

“Cork had a plan and they stuck by it right through the match. Kerry kind of played the same as Cork. Kerry should have played a different style of game – but that’s their problem, I don’t worry about the opposition I worry about my own teams!

“Cork had a plan, they stuck with it, and they showed fierce attitude and fierce heart. They got their reward at the end of the day, and I just really feel happy for them. It’s been a tough time for people with Covid, but it’s given us a great lift down here to beat Kerry in a knockout situation.”

Cork will now face Tipperary in the Munster final on November 22nd.

For more reaction from the game, you can listen to the Big Red Bench Podcast.


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