Special K: Kingdom and Cats to turn up the treble
Success breeds success. Just ask Kerry or Kilkenny. The Kingdom footballers have a third All Ireland football title on the trot in their sights while Brian Cody’s Cats are targeting a place in the pantheon of great hurling teams by landing a similar treble.
In a era when inter-county players are reputedly under greater pressure and in which playing careers are perceived as being of a shorter duration, the special ‘K’ factor still dominates the All Ireland arena.
Both counties revel in their own particular GAA tradition, both espouse absolute dedication to the cause and both spare nothing in their drive to remain the best.
This weekend, the Cats will attempt to reach the All Ireland hurling final once again at the expense of Cork while Kerry will strive to reach the last four of the race for the Sam Maguire Cup by ending Galway’s hopes of glory.
Given that Kilkenny have won five All Ireland titles since Cody took over in 1999 and that Kerry have taken custody of the football crown on four occasions since the dawn of the new millennium, the notion that complacency might just have infiltrated either camp would have some currency.
Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.There are few more driven mentors in Irish sport as a whole than Brian Cody while Kerry football supremo Pat O’Shea may be perceived as courteous, even laid back but these assets mask an inner steel.
Kerry may have had to play second fiddle to teams like Meath, Galway, Armagh and Tyrone on the football stage over the past decade but they still retain their aura as the high kings of football.
And if teams like Cork - their opponents again tomorrow - have plucked occasionally at Kilkenny’s apparent invincibility, the Cats are still the Rolls Royce of hurling.
Kilkenny and Kerry may or may not rise to the occasion during the National League but they never produce anything less than maximum effort when Championship honours are at stake.
Credibility, pride and ambition have helped to spur both teams to the top - and can keep them there.