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Cork can be masters of Kerry's class

By Peter Canavan

Published 04/07/2015

Close call: Cork's Michael Shields (left) and Kerry's Kieran Donaghy go head-to-head in classic clash
Close call: Cork's Michael Shields (left) and Kerry's Kieran Donaghy go head-to-head in classic clash

I was privileged to be invited to the recent Kerry fundraiser in New York and had my eyes opened as to how everyone involved can tap into the strong Kerry brand. They took home enough money to make a serious dent on the bill for their centre of excellence in Currans.

I flew out for two nights and attended the gala function in The Plaza Hotel. Myself and Henry Shefflin were brought along as 'outsiders'.

There was a bit of craic over an auction of a painting, capturing the moment I scored a goal past Kerry goalkeeper and now selector Diarmuid Murphy in the 2005 All-Ireland final.

It made Kerry $15,000 (£9,600) when a Tyrone businessman outbid Darragh ÓSé to get his hands on the immortal moment.

We were in the company of a number of recently-retired Kingdom legends - Tomás and Darragh ÓSé, Tommy Griffin, Maurice Fitzgerald, onto some of the 'golden years' generation; the Spillane brothers, Ger Lynch, Jimmy Deenihan, Bomber Liston, Ogie Moran.

There were coaching sessions organised, golf classics in New York, Boston and Chicago as they hit up three cities in one week.

Bomber and Ogie were on the organising committee. Micheál O'Muircheartaigh was out there to bring his customary colour and wit.

The highlight of the night came courtesy of their talented minor of last year, Tomás ÓSé, who is a professional dancer. He performed a scene from Riverdance and it was just marginally better than Bomber, Sean Walsh and Mick Galwey alongside him trying to do the same!

The patrons in the Grand Plaza had never seen such a range of abilities, an unforgettable sight.

While they are in rude health off the field, I feel Cork might have a sting for them this Sunday.

When one talks about the Munster final, memories from previous eras come flooding back; sun-splashed Killarney or Páirc Uí Chaoimh, crowds sitting on the sidelines anticipating the final whistle.

As a spectacle it's all-out excitement with two teams going head-to-head.

Normally it's combative and produces quality football. When you think of the Munster final, that's what comes to my mind.

I would be expecting no different tomorrow. You have the quality players and the flair players in James O'Donoghue, Colm Cooper (who I expect to see on the pitch at some stage) and Colm O'Neill; three of the finest of their generation.

And then Kerry have an edge to their game in defence in the experienced Marc ÓSé and the youth of Peter Crowley.

Cork have Eoin Cadogan and Michael Shields laying down the law, providing some much-needed steel to their game. You still have that mixture of player in both counties.

There is the added element that Kerry are All-Ireland champions. Within a deep-rooted rivalry, that inspires the opposing team.

In our own case with Errigal Ciaran in club football, our greatest rivals were Carrickmore. The fact that we were both winning Championships inspired and pushed each other on to try and get the better of each other. With Tyrone and Armagh, Tyrone and Derry, it was no different.

There is nothing better to motivate a team or a group of players than seeing their biggest rivals succeeding. Not only are Cork coming up against the All-Ireland champions, but for such a proud county, named the Rebels, they are being battered from every direction on and off the pitch.

Dublin gave them a rough going-over in the National League final and every man and his dog appears to be having a go at them now. A lot of these Cork players have won All-Ireland medals, so I would certainly expect a big response, for the game to go to the wire and be one of the better Munster finals.

I must admit to raising an eyebrow at Tomás ÓSé's criticisms of Cork last week, especially from the point of view that he still has his brother Marc playing on the Kerry team.

His comments will motivate Cork. They can say that it will not make any difference and they will not pay any heed to them, but when someone like Tomás ÓSé says something like that, of course they will use it to motivate themselves. I daresay Marc will be reminded of it on the field as well.

In my time, it was Pat Spillane's ramblings that proved irksome for many Tyrone folk. To be honest, it was never mentioned as a means of motivating our team.

But when it comes from someone like Tomás, he is just after finishing playing and he would certainly be held in high regard. The fact he is so close to so many in both counties makes it different.

He is training and playing in among serious football people in Nemo Rangers, so he might just be picking up on the feeling within the county.

For my part, I give Cork a great chance, because Kerry don't need to win this Munster final. They have nothing to prove.

They have nothing to lose and a defeat in a Munster final will not dampen their enthusiasm. It will not reduce their chances of winning the Sam Maguire, because they will have the self-belief and the desire to prove themselves and know they can win an All-Ireland through the back door.

Their Kerry mentality means it will not deflate them and they would love to get another crack at Cork again, knowing that they can beat them in Croke Park.

Compare that to Cork, who know that a loss will dent their brittle confidence. It will have a bigger effect. There is more at stake for Cork. They are the motivated team, they have all the reasons to produce a performance and a win.

The reason they not build on their 2010 All-Ireland win can be attributed to the injuries suffered and eventual retirement of Graham Canty, their main leader.

When the county hurlers went on strike, he was the figurehead for the footballers who supported their stance.

He is a massive loss to Cork. We are waiting to see who is going to take over that mantle.

You see people on the pitch, but you don't know who is talking in the changing rooms, who is driving them on off the pitch, keeping boys right, checking players when they are messing about, making sure that training is at high intensity and everybody is putting it in.

It appears that they are lacking leadership on the pitch. But we will get a chance to find out a bit more about that tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph

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