Stephen O’Brien: Kerry braced for Cork side with something to prove

Having been battered and bashed in recent weeks, Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien is expecting a backlash from the Cork footballers when the counties meet on the first Sunday of next month.

Cork boss Peadar Healy claimed in the aftermath of their one-point win over Tipperary that his footballers have been hammered by the media since the county’s championship opener away to Waterford and O’Brien knows full well they’ll be out to prove a point on Munster final afternoon.

“They’re going to respond, definitely, so we’re going to have to be ready for them,” said O’Brien, who kicked 1-1 when sprung from the bench at half-time in Kerry’s Munster semi-final win over Clare.

Cork have not scored a championship win over their neighbours since 2012, with Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s side emerging victorious in their 2013, ’14 and ’15 (replay) meetings. 

The rivalry, according to O’Brien, hasn’t been diminished by Kerry’s recent dominance. He was part of UCC’s county championship winning team in 2011 and also won a Sigerson Cup with the university earlier that year. 

Having played alongside Ken O’Halloran, Jamie O’Sullivan, Tomás Clancy, Mark Collins, and Barry O’Driscoll, he stressed the quality that runs through Healy’s camp.

“The Kerry U21 teams I was a part of, Cork beat us in two Munster finals. We never beat them at minor, either. So it’s still a rivalry, without a doubt. 

"We never played them last year, so it’s great to have the rivalry going again. We know the quality of their players.”

Having to overcome the loss of Donnchadh Walsh and being forced to chase Clare early in the second-half was ideal preparation for the provincial decider, reckoned the Kenmare forward.

“We were up against it at half-time; down a man, a level game, and we were against the wind in the second half. There was nothing to say at half-time. We challenged ourselves to do that which we did in the second half.

“We’re happy we came through the adversity posed to us. It was a brilliant test.”

Experience, he added, was key in the winners’ ability to overpower their opponents despite being down a man.

“I suppose we’ve been around the block a few times, as well, lads just used a bit of experience and guile we’ve built up over the years. You couldn’t have written a better script for us than having that adversity, because you can’t fake it. 

"That only happens in the championship. It’s great that’s under our belts now for the next day.”

O’Brien described Brendan O’Sullivan’s failed drugs test as “unfortunate”, the manner in which his name was “dragged through the papers”.

“We found out there just before we went to the camp. It’s only a game at the end of the day. We felt for Brendan, because he’s a key member of our squad, a great man behind the scenes, a great character. 

"There was a lot of talk about it, so we rallied around him. There wasn’t too much said about it within the camp.”


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