By Peter O’ Dwyer
The great send off for the ‘De Park’ starts here if Cork fans are to be believed, as the first of two Munster deciders takes centre stage at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this week.
Coming to spoil the party, however, are old foes Kerry.
That the venue has garnered as much attention in the run-up to this Munster final says it all about the relative states of uncertainty the respective counties and their supporters find themselves in.
Add to the mix slow ticket sales and cagey, unconvincing semi-final wins over relative minnows and it’s all added up to one of the most understated Munster final build-ups in many a year.
Come throw-in tomorrow, in front of however many make the journey, all that will matter little however.
Cork and Kerry with a provincial title on the line needs no added fuel to burst into life, and tomorrow’s contest will be no different.
And luckily, both sides like to actually play football rather than a wrestling-hybrid version of the game espoused by others and so we should be in for an entertaining affair too.
With Kerry and attacking football in particular, it’s very much a case of for better or worse, ‘til death do us part: a tradition that has served them well no doubt, but one, thankfully from a neutral’s point of view, largely not up for discussion either.
An unfancied Tipperary team put Cork to the pin of their collars and nearly caused a huge upset a fortnight ago by putting 13 men behind the ball and allowing Cork to shoot themselves to victory if they could. Despite the eventual result, the blueprint to defeat Cork was set.
Had they been born anywhere other than The Kingdom, Cork’s challengers this week might –as underdogs - be enticed to employ a similar gameplan on Sunday.
That of course is a fanciful notion though; the blanket defence is as alien to Kerry teams as the concept of being in any way subservient to their neighbours is to their supporters.
Cork weren’t the only side to struggle through their semi-final though as Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s men were pushed all the way by Clare before prevailing on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-17.
Donnchadh Walsh, Johnny Buckley and sharpshooter James O’ Donoghue have all recovered from injury to reclaim their starting places on this occasion however, as does Aidan O’ Mahony who starts at full-back.
Cork manager Brian Cuthbert, meanwhile, has opted to unleash his dual players from the off this time as his side look for a higher gear that will see them passed their great rivals and into an All-Ireland quarter-final.
Into the side come Aidan Walsh, Eoin Cadogan and Damien Cahalane in place of Andrew O’ Sullivan, John Hayes and Mark Collins.
As throw-in approaches and the respective sets of fans cross paths, expect the verbal muscle-flexing to reach something like the pitch we’re used to when these two meet.
After all, both have cause for optimism, both intrinsically believe the sporting supremacy of their people over the other but both, on this occasion, are cagey; uncertain and cautious too.
Come half-three tomorrow, one set will have claimed supremacy of ‘De Park’ and reclaimed the conviction that, really, the result was never in doubt.