Disappointed, of course, but not disheartened.
No manager or team likes to get beaten by 12 points, even one as experimental and inexperienced as Cork put out on Saturday, but new boss Keith Ricken saw no need to hit any panic buttons as he dissected their final hammering in his typically pragmatic style.
Over the course of three McGrath Cup games, Cork management looked at 41 players. Just over half — 21 — were taking their first steps on the senior inter-county stage.
So, where Cork used eight players in Saturday’s final who recently made their senior debut, the Kerry team contained eight players who started last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tyrone.
“It’s comparing apples and oranges in one sense,” said Ricken of his side falling well short of a road-tested Kerry outfit. “We are rebuilding, we have to restart and refocus. If that Kerry team was named going out in an All-Ireland final, that’s what you would be expecting. Most of those Kerry guys have played in an All-Ireland final and so you are looking at a different plateau.
“I was glad to come down and get that experience; if you make a mistake against opposition of that level then you will be punished and it’s good for our lads to see that. It’s also good that the lads will know that they can stay in the game and that they can create scoring opportunities.
“Ours is a long-term project. You take the learnings from every day that you go out, but our job is also to fix as we go. We have to marry both and that is a difficult task in itself. Of the guys we have played [this month], around 20 had never played senior football with Cork before this year, so that is great stuff for us.
“If this was a band and we were playing shit music now, you wouldn’t be giving out to anybody. You’d be delighted they’re picking up the instruments because we only have four or five weeks of football done and in that time we are trying to play McGrath Cup, we are trying to deal with Covid, and trying to deal with colleges football.”