Ken O’Halloran: Last year’s harsh lessons have been absorbed

It’s either the worst view of the field or the best.

The goalkeepers in tomorrow’s Munster football final see the whole field in front of them when they line up a kick-out. Cork’s Ken O’Halloran describes finding a red target among the green and gold as “challenging”.

“Kerry’s kick-out defence is quite good so you have to be prepared. Last year we probably didn’t deal with it.

“We responded in the second half but I think the damage was done, essentially.

“You just have to have a cool head. It’s a bit of a chess match, you’re just trying to find the little spaces, to work it short or go long, or just get the communication right.”

How does a goalkeeper prepare for that?

“Repetition. And you’ve been in situations in matches when you’ve been under pressure with your kick-outs and you take confidence from that and work your way through it.

“You just stay calm and relaxed, ignore what’s going on with the crowd and what’s happening on the sideline.” Like most keepers, O’Halloran served an apprenticeship: two and a half years on the bench, waiting for his chance at senior level.”

O’Halloran’s displays with his club, Bishopstown, and UCC in the Sigerson, got him noticed.

“I found it tough in 2012. I was starting work in September and had the whole summer off, and lost to Donegal the day before I went back to work so you think you’re getting a bit of freedom, but you’re back to work the next day.

“I remember looking at Diarmuid Murphy when he was involved with Kerry, he was a sub for a long time but went on to win All-Irelands.

“Quirkey (Alan Quirke) was a sub but went on to win an All-Ireland. (Anthony) Nash got into the team and nearly won one as well. So you have to do a bit of a sentence sometimes if you want to do it. I don’t think I could have done much longer, though.”

O’Halloran says players become “a bit institutionalised” from the commitment: “It’s just part of your life, you go training, training, training. “If that’s taken away suddenly then you could become bored and you mightn’t know what to do with yourself. Ultimately it’s a dream but the time and effort every year is getting more and more and certainly it can be stressful, especially on fellas who have been on the team and now aren’t on the team, it’s tough on them giving all that time and commitment and then not getting on for the big days.”

Last year’s Munster final was a huge disappointment, but now it’s gone, he says. Cork have absorbed the lesson of starting slowly.

“You can’t give teams a head start. We’ve done it in the past, that we have shown that if we find ourselves in that position that we have the ability to claw back a lead.

We put that to bed in the weeks after last year. Again, it’s a big game that maybe a lot of people went to last year and maybe a lot of people haven’t seen us play since.You look at the training sessions, the matches, the league, we think we’re a different side this year. You can’t keep dwelling on the past. We parked it a week afterwards, we beat Sligo and we were a bit unlucky, maybe, against Mayo in the quarter-final.”

Kerry have also moved on, of course.

“Every year there’s a turnover of players and a turnover in attitudes and last year there was a massive turnover of players for us, we had a load of new young fellas.

“It was a harsh learning curve for everyone involved but look, it could have been different if we had beaten Mayo that day. But ifs are part of sport and we’re looking forward to putting it right.”

So is criticism, but O’Halloran has insulated himself against that.

“I’ve deleted my Twitter app, I don’t look at newspapers. Obviously you’re going to have family or friends throwing some comments at you here and there.

“For us it’s just about training and playing matches, it’s got absolutely no relevance to us.

The Cork players believe in themselves, he adds.

“We know we have talent and certainly there’s fellas in there with All-Ireland medals, who have achieved an awful lot in the game, like All Stars.

“But look, since we lost some of our experienced players we haven’t got a big win yet and hopefully that’s coming.”

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