Five years ago, it wasn’t indifference that stopped Kerry supporters from travelling to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it was dread.
“It’s tough being down in Kerry sometimes with that sort of stuff because Kerry people are so forthcoming with their opinions,” said James O’Donoghue later in 2014. “You ask if they’re going to the game and they’ll say, ‘Nah sure why would I go down to see them get bate?’”
Just 21,028 paid in but the trip was worthwhile for Kerry’s more loyal supporters as their team won by double scores, 0-24 to 0-12.
The wheel has long turned and now the fear is all Cork’s. As emphatic as the semi-final win over Limerick was, a win over a Division 4 side isn’t going to cut it for most, not when Kerry had it relatively easy in beating a Clare team in Ennis that, unlike Cork, managed to stay in Division 2.
Hope springs eternal and reports of Cork’s strength in challenge games continue, but the signs are the old rivalry has now lost much of its lustre.
On Tuesday, well-known historian and Kerry fan Richard McElligott got in touch with Irish Rail on Twitter to complain that the last train from Kent Street Station to Kerry leaves at 8.50pm, less than two hours after throw-in. “How are supporters expected to avail of the train to get home?!
Irish Rail said they would get back to him but the issue is clearly a lack of interest. An extra train was put on for Limerick supporters going to Waterford for their Munster SHC game last month. When there is demand, there is usually supply.
After a first Saturday evening staging last year, the Munster SFC final was in line to return to a Sunday this year.
At the end of 2017, the Central Competitions Control Committee explained:
"It again offers a good promotional and marketing opportunity.
"It will be reviewed next year (2018) but this is envisioned as being part of a three-year experimental rota with Leinster and Ulster, whereby if required one of those provinces would also look at playing a provincial football final on a Saturday night in the coming years.”
The expected poor crowd on Saturday indicates the promotional opportunity isn’t as gilt-edged as initially believed.
Not one of the Kerry matchday panel in Ennis last day out began the county’s last SFC defeat to Cork in 2012.
Peter Crowley (knee) and Killian Young (ankle) are sidelined while James O’Donoghue did come on as a substitute in that Munster semi-final defeat.
Tommy Walsh and Michael Geaney know what it’s like to lose to Cork too but that bitter taste in the Kerry dressing room is minuscule.
By this stage Paul Kerrigan’s team-mates must be growing tired of his stories about beating Kerry. He is the only survivor from the 2012 team although Mark Collins came on for him in additional time that day.
David Clifford, Dara Moynihan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Seán O’Shea and Graham O’Sullivan have never lost a Championship game to Cork.
Cork have been working on getting meaner but it’s unlikely they will do a Galway and keep Kerry to 13 points. They will likely have to score more than 20 points, but with the exception of the 2015 draw in Killarney they have not done that since their 2012 victory.
On the other hand, Kerry in the six meetings since ‘12 have passed the 20-point mark on four occasions. There have been double-digit differences between the teams in three of their last five SFC meetings.
Since 2012, the aggregate margin between the two teams in their six SFC clashes is 47 points, an average of almost eight points per game.
After tipping them to beat Kerry in 2017, “reverse yerra” is how Darragh Ó Sé’s Irish Times column goading Cork has been wittily described. It appears he’s come around to the thinking of his brother Tomás, a resident in Cork, who has been consistent in his scathing analysis of Kerry’s neighbours.
For the sake of a test for their own team, Kerry pundits want a rise out of Cork.
Once the game for the leading referees (Pat McEnaney 2009 replay, David Coldrick 2011 and 2012, Maurice Deegan 2015), this tie is now for the up-and-coming/almost there officials (Paddy Neilan 2017, Ciarán Branagan 2018, Anthony Nolan 2019).