The most maligned team in Gaelic football only went and answered their critics yesterday — just as the baiting reached fever pitch with even ‘yerra’ merchants from Kerry breaking cover.
Cork football, with its allegedly fickle fanbase and its traditional status as the second sport in the county, doesn’t seem to hold enough romantic appeal for pundits in thrall to the charms of Kerry, Mayo, and Donegal.
Even their finest hour, the 2010 All-Ireland success, has aged badly. At least, that’s the feeling outside of Cork.
Even Howard Wilkinson’s 1992 league title with Leeds United (yes, Howard Wilkinson won the English league) survives better in the public mind.
Cork mugged an ill-disciplined Dublin side in the closing stages of the semi-final, a match they probably should have lost. And Joe Brolly is fond of hammering the point in that they defeated the worst team ever to reach an All-Ireland final, neglecting to mention that Down had demolished Jack O’Connor’s otherwise imperious Kerry team in the quarter-final.
The narrative yesterday was heavy on lamentations about Cork’s supposedly abysmal record in Fitzgerald Stadium. The impression was given that Cork fall prey to an ancient hex when they enter the place.
Is this justified? For one thing, in the world of GAA hexes, 20 years is nothing. We’re still in “form is temporary” territory here.
Connoisseurs of such curses will point to Mayo’s 46-year drought in Tuam, for instance.
Secondly, such talk ignores the number of draws Cork have earned in Killarney. Yesterday witnessed the fifth stalemate in Killarney between these sides this century.
In 2002, 2006, and 2009, Cork won the replay in Páirc Ui Chaoimh. In 2010, they were beaten in extra-time, in a game which posterity may record as the Paul Galvin final.
Ultimately, it’s Cork’s record against Kerry in Croke Park which will bug them more than any perceived failings in Killarney.
The chains responsible for binding so many GAA teams were evident again Saturday — and yesterday.
Following their tame first-half effort, Wexford delivered a textbook ‘shackles are off’ performance during the second-half at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday evening.
That begs the question: Why were they on to begin with?
It was a strategic error, in this column’s estimation. It was a decision which Liam Dunne no doubt rued.
Speaking of shackles, in the wake of the Marty Morrissey/Cavan football debacle, RTÉ has clearly decided on a new policy for managing the talents of Joe Brolly.
As Brolly set about elaborating further on the short-comings of Armagh referee Padraig Hughes, Darragh Maloney intervened with all the subtlety of a burly, shades-wearing US secret service agent shunting a protester out of the president’s eyeline.
It was like watching the current Ceann Comhairle telling a raggedy looking independent backbencher that he couldn’t raise that point.
Now move along.
Brolly harrumphed like his free speech was being curtailed. Which, in a sense, it was.
He may, before long, claim to be the Derry Aung San Suu Kyi.
However, one struggles to see Amnesty or the Irish Council for Civil Liberties taking too much interest in his case.
Galway performed respectably in Croke Park yesterday but faded out in the end, slumping to a seven-point defeat.
This was the same margin of defeat they suffered in 2010 Leinster Final, a game which former manager Conor Hayes would accuse them of ‘walking away from’. Following the wins over Dublin and Laois, the press is a touch more favourable. Lynskey et al may hold their fire this time around.
However, Galway hurling now faces into one of their favourite treats.
A quarter-final in Thurles the weekend before the Galway Races. Galway have a truly lamentable record in the ‘home of hurling’. Such is their record, they probably gag at that sobriquet.
Since the 1980s, they’ve won three championship matches in Semple Stadium, the sensational 1986 All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny and then two wins over unhappy and distracted Cork teams in 2002 and 2009.
This is compared with nine defeats in the same period. And since 2004, Galway have been bumped off in Thurles on no fewer than seven occasions.
This forms part of a generally miserable record at the 18-year old quarter-final stage.
In Galway’s last hot season in 2012, they mercifully leapfrogged the quarter-final stage. For their last triumph in the All-Ireland quarter-final, one has to revisit 2005, when late goals from Damien Hayes claimed a surprise victory over Tipperary.
Crucially that game was in Croke Park. And was played the week after the Galway Races.
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