Which team is under greater psychological pressure?

PATRICK KIELTY is better known for his work on TV – and for once dating Amanda Byram – but he can also boast an impressive knowledge of the GAA scene despite being domiciled in London.

Sub keeper on the Down team that beat Kildare and Cork – sound ominous? – on the way to the All-Ireland minor title in 1987, he was the number one for the county youngsters the following two seasons.

That CV led to him giving an interview on RTÉ this week when he went into considerable detail about his county’s progress to this year’s decider.

He was asked about Conor Counihan’s assertion about how he wouldn’t like to be on the Down team that brings their proud unbeaten All-Ireland final record to an end.

Kielty appreciated the “codology” from the Cork manager but the quick-witted comedian was sharp enough to turn the remark on its head by pointing to the Munster side’s two defeats in the last three deciders.

“I would much prefer to be a Down team going up the road after getting to Croke Park 50 years from the first Down team to win an All-Ireland than to be the third Cork team going home having actually lost an All-Ireland final.”

Kielty could have dug deeper. Cork have taken part in 22 All-Ireland football finals since their first in 1890 and have lost 16. Only Kerry have lost more (18) but have the considerable consolation of having won 36.

Four of Cork’s reversals have been recorded since their last title in 1990 but the last two are the only ones that bear any significance, given the continued involvement of so many of the same players.

How will the memory of those losses sit with them? The obvious thing to point out here is that both those defeats came courtesy of a Kerry outfit that remains the only side to get the better of the Rebels in championship football since 2004.

The theory was that the Kingdom’s exit – added to that of Tyrone’s – at the quarter-final stage would liberate Counihan’s side, but the evidence of the semi-final against Dublin would not suggest as much.

So, advantage Down? Not according to James McCartan who has been swatting aside the relevance of any history lessons ever since they put their unbeaten championship record in head-to-heads against Kerry on the line in that last eight tie.

“Look, all we can do is...we can’t really worry about Cork,” said ‘Wee James’ last week. “The five All-Irelands in the past – I know, I was part of two of them – but they’ve no relevance to this bunch of guys.

“Would you rather have six All-Irelands out of six or seven out of nine? I’d rather have seven out of nine. This is no relevance at all, the past, to this bunch of guys.

“It would be nice if we managed to pull it off, that these guys would join a select bunch and then it would be history, but at the minute that’s just what it is. History.”

If anything, their impressive victory against Jack O’Connor’s men would suggest Benny Coulter and the boys feel elevated and empowered by theresponsibilities heaped on them by former glories. Yet, the fact is whoever loses Sunday will have their disappointment sown into the context of their county’s wider tapestry and only the players will know if the past had anything to do with their defeat.

Perhaps a more pertinent point to make is that Cork carry the tag of favourites despite their history while Down are encumbered by no such burden even when theirs is taken into account.

In that light, it might be argued that it is the Ulster side with nothing to lose.


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