MICKEY HARTE has pointed to Cork’s least impressive performance of the championship campaign as evidence of their credentials to finally beat Kerry in Croke Park and win tomorrow’s All-Ireland.
Having accounted for the Kingdom after a replay in the Munster semi-final, Conor Counihan’s men were short odds-on to account for Limerick in the decider.
They managed to do so but only after playing second fiddle for much of the game. A controversial penalty award helped them secure a 2-6 to 0-11 victory and subsequent analysis was not kind to the Rebels.
By showing the ability to dig deep when not playing well, Cork had indicated the presence of a previously unseen steel which impressed Harte, however, and it is why he expects them to get their hands on the Sam Maguire for the first time since 1990.
“Their narrow win has been viewed by many observers as the only glitch in their championship campaign,” writes the Tyrone boss in the Irish News. “On the contrary, I believe this result proved Cork’s championship pedigree.
“First, there was the danger that they might bask in the glory of their Munster semi-final victory over Kerry and underestimate the men from the Treaty county.
“Coping with what turned out to be a comfortable final quarter against the Kingdom and then having to face incessant, in-your-face pressure from a team of well-prepared underdogs was exactly what Conor Counihan’s men needed.
“The beauty of this game for Cork was that, though they won the match and the title, all the moral victories were posted Limerick’s way; exactly how Cork wanted it.
“This perceived bad result ensured the preparation for the quarter-final was pitched at the right level. In fact, this result has served them as well as a defeat, without them actually losing.”
Harte was also impressed by the manner in which Cork dealt with the subsequent lay-off until the All-Ireland quarter-final and they annihilated Donegal in that tie, before accounting for Tyrone in the semi-final.
Their physical strength is a significant factor, but it is over-emphasised according to Harte, who points more to Cork’s speed, workrate and clever tactics.
“One of the key platforms upon which Cork’s success has been built this year in particular has been the control of their own kick-outs. Alan Quirke can execute a variety of deliveries with superb efficiency.”
Kerry supporters looking for comfort from drawing comparison between their sides’ progress through the qualifiers and Tyrone’s en route to ultimate glory last year are misguided, says Harte.
“Unlike our evolution last year when, after the Down defeat, we encountered progressively tougher opposition, Kerry have battled past teams of a similar standard before excelling against the Dubs. Their victory over Meath, though comfortable, was not nearly as impressive.”
Harte wonders if Darragh Ó Sé will last 70 minutes and also questions Paul Galvin’s temperament. The latter is a topic taken up by former Armagh stalwart Jarlath Burns in Gaelic Life.
“It could come down to small things; like who is first to get sent off. Watch carefully the return of Galvin and (Noel) O’Leary. Both saw red in the replay on June 13 and Cork prospered more by their absence. There’s always great craic when Pearse O’Neill and Darragh Ó Sé meet.
“A team with 14 men won’t win an energy-sapping, attritional contest like this one, so both teams will know they must keep their number on the field for the 70 minutes.
“Kerry definitely have more cards to play since they last met Cork but they haven’t enough power to trump this Cork side who have played with consistency, urgency and sheer dominance all year.”
Sunday Game analyst Joe Brolly seems to buck the northern trend by plumping for a Kerry victory, despite his obvious admiration for Cork.
“Conor Counihan has ruthlessly but politely removed the dead wood, and now has a team of athletes and footballers playing to a well-worked system. Their exploitation of Tyrone’s weaknesses three weeks ago underlines the fact that they are ready.
“And yet, they are meeting a Kerry team that has never been better prepared. Like Counihan, Jack O’Connor has stripped out the luxury players and replaced them with men who know how to go the distance.
“He has a more versatile game plan. Most importantly, he has the most potent group of finishers in the country.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved