All Ireland Football Championship: Down dream will be crushed, says Kerry legend O’Connor
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor is tipping Cork to overcome Down in Sunday's All-Ireland football final.
The Rebels have struggled to be at their brilliant best in the latter stages of this year's Championship, needing extra-time against Limerick to progress through to the quarter-finals.
It was a similar case against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final which leaves O’Connor with a certain reservation.
“It's a hard game to call because Cork haven’t hit the heights that they hit last year,” he said.
“They were the form team from about April until August last year and they were playing phenomenal football.
“But this year I just don't think that they are the same physically and they are not running with the same energy and freedom that they were this time last year.
“If they play like they have been playing, Down have a very good system that is hard to break down and they have a few lethal forwards.
“But if Cork produce a big performance they will win it.”
O'Connor also maintains there will be a new kind of pressure on the Down players leading into the game, as they bid to maintain their county's unbeaten record in All-Ireland football finals.
“Everything has fallen right for Down in the sense that they have come from nowhere so there has been no pressure on them.
“But there will be pressure on them in the final,” said the Kingdom man.
“Down's record of never losing a final in Croke Park will be felt by the Down players in the run-up.
“I believe Cork will win if they perform as they are capable of performing.
“But if they don't, you can't underestimate this Down team. They certainly are no flash in the pan.”
Meanwhile, Down PRO Ronan McMahon is confident Mourne fans will be on their best behaviour come All Ireland final day.
“Our fans can get right behind the team by cheering them on rather than jeering the opposition,” he said.
Under the new Respect initiative, fans are asked to accord free-takers silence while also ending the abuse of players and officials.