The news that “Crash, Bang, Wallop,” the video of Cork’s All-Ireland year will soon be available in shops, will be welcome news for all lovers of rugby league!
They have been able to bludgeon and bore their way through every team in the country with their primitive approach, but as we saw for the umpteenth time last Sunday, the Kingdom were far too smart for them.
By half-time the score was 1-10 to 0-5 and could have been worse for Cork, whose tactic of soloing hard at the opposing defence was only serving to give them sore heads.
Crash, Pierce O’Neill ran into Aidan O’Mahoney, head down; Bang, Noel O’Leary charged into Sheehan and Wallop, Paul Kerrigan collided with O’ Sullivan, the linesmen, the referee, the corner flag and the goalpost and still kept solo-running!
I said last year they are a dumb team and I saw nothing on Sunday that might cause me to alter that assessment. Overwhelming domination of the middle third, ceaseless hard running at defences and two excellent free-takers have brought them an All-Ireland and make them very hard to beat.
On top of that, they play with courage and integrity and in that regard, they are moulded in the image of their creator. However, they are not in the same league as Kerry nor Tyrone, in their pomp, even if that pomp began deflating three years ago and if Mickey keeps going the way he is it will soon be flat as a pancake.
Before the 2009 All-Ireland final between Kerry and Cork, I was wandering about in the bowels of the Hogan Stand. I like to go early on All-Ireland final morning and see the place awakening. Say hello to this and that, go into the RTE vans, wind Tony Davis up and so on.
A few hours before the Kerry team arrived, their kit man pulled up in his van and started unloading the precious green and gold kits.
“Show me the number 13” I asked him.
“Now, Derryman, you know all about number 13.”
“Ah go on, show me it.”
He took it out reverentially, like a pilgrim who had discovered the last stitch on Padre Pio’s gown.
“There it is” he said, “A lot of greats have worn it.”
“Maybe this latest one is the greatest of them all?” I suggested.
“You might be right, Derryman, you might be right.”
“Will you beat them today?”
“They’re a big shtrong team” he said, “But I’d say it’ll be the same old shtory.”
A few hours later, the same old shtory did, indeed, unfold, Kerry’s skills and footballing know-how reducing Cork’s battering ram to a pile of woodworm.
The second half in Killarney last week emphasised Cork’s strengths and weaknesses. These remain identical to what they were two years ago. The theory was that if they could win the All-Ireland, this would be a psychological breakthrough.
Free of the baggage of failure, they would quickly improve and become a great team. It has not worked out that way. Their two dangerous forwards remain starved of possession in a congested three man full-forward line. They are static because they know the ball will not be kicked in long and accurately and usually they are behind a sweeper. Against Down last year, they finally got free in the second half to kick two points apiece, courtesy of Down’s decision not to play a sweeper and Cork’s overwhelming midfield domination. In spite of everything, they collapsed over the line by a single point, against a Down team that were tourists accidentally arrived in Croke Park.
Wee James nearly pulled off the greatest con trick since the Eiffel Tower was sold to a man from Cullyhanna.
In the semi-final, the Dubs had imploded when they were five points clear with five minutes to go. They fell into the trap of fouling the hard runners as they crashed against the Dublin defences in wave after wave. No doubt, this is difficult to cope with and requires very good discipline and concentration. A penalty and three frees saw Cork into the final, again by a single point.
On Sunday in Killarney, they floundered, but still managed to keep in touch, courtesy of hard running, frees and the virtually obligatory penalty.
The over-rated Graham Canty was again shown up, by both Star and Declan O’Sullivan. Four points from play in the first half doesn’t tell the whole story.
“What do people see in Canty?” a Kerry man texted me at half-time.
“I don’t know” was my response.
In fairness, Kerry people are very harsh judges of a footballer. Someone like Graham, whose strengths are his physique, athleticism and never-say-die attitude underwhelms them. They have that in Kerry, but on top of that they have the skills. Graham does not.
He has been described as a star in the hybrid Rules game and is always discussed as a great in the media. I don’t see it. Where Kerry footballers are expected to be able to score, regardless of the number on their back, Cork’s numbers 5 to 9 cannot, nor can they distribute the ball well. Their two midfielders are big hearted athletes but their skills are clumsy to say the least. Brian Sheehan, meanwhile, can kick points effortlessly from any position within 60 yards of goal.
Kerry remain the gold standard. Tomas O’Se and Paul Galvin will return in a few weeks.
Come the third Sunday in September I will stroll over to the Kerry kitman when he arrives, he will greet me with “Well Derryman” and so the world will turn. The same old shtory.