Tuesday 27 June 2017

Billy Keane: Killarney the winner as cash registers get ready to whirr

Colm Cooper enters the fray in the second half in Killarney (Sportsfile)
Colm Cooper enters the fray in the second half in Killarney (Sportsfile)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The story was that Cork people were only here for the day out, to keep up appearances. It was as if it's our custom and in our breeding to back our own, even when the odds-makers gave the Cork boys only a small chance.

So it seemed. But the Rebels dreamed and their team believed. They had their plan made for Kerry, and it was to run at us. The Kerry defence was a comb-over. The forwards didn't chase back and there were moments when Cork looked like they could score five or six goals.

But the long-range points and Kieran Donaghy's breaking balls to on-rushing runners saved us.

In the end it was another draw after a second half that had the packed house gasping.

Kieran Donaghy is congratulated by his Kerry team-mate Barry John Keane, left, after scoring his side's first goal
Kieran Donaghy is congratulated by his Kerry team-mate Barry John Keane, left, after scoring his side's first goal

One minute you'd be screaming for the final whistle and then with the changing fortunes of the game the next call would be for more time to make a draw out of it.

Read more: Cork faith restored as Kerry strike late

Read more: Rebels miss their chance

You might say football was the winner, and it was, in that the game was open bar for periods in the first half when Cork played 10 or 11 in defence.

More might say Killarney was the winner. The replay is here next Saturday night. It's jam with jam on it. They'll need to bale the money for Killarney AIB men James O'Donoghue and the Gooch, who will lose their fingerprints if they're put counting the harvest.

Local boy Fionn Fitzgerald's fine equalising point will fill B&Bs, pubs and aten houses all over again on Saturday.

Cork players, including Michael Shields, Eoin Cadogan, Mark Collins and Brian O’Driscoll react as referee Padraig Hughes awards a penalty to Kerry
Cork players, including Michael Shields, Eoin Cadogan, Mark Collins and Brian O’Driscoll react as referee Padraig Hughes awards a penalty to Kerry

Cork, you see, is closed for football for the foreseeable future. Building work.

The attendance was 35,651, so that makes for 70,000 or more. They'll take some feeding and watering.

Killarney was packed with recovering Ring of Kerry cyclists and their domestiques. The annual charity event brought ¤1.5m to worthy causes and much more to the economy of our tourist capital, but somewhere up in the God-high mountains at the back of the O'Sullivan Stand there lies in un-signposted anonymity the wettest spot in all of Ireland.

It's a place populated by slimy newts, and hobgoblin leprechauns. The wee folk have long since left the lowlands, having being worn out from trying to duck American tourists in search of the little people.

There are three spires between Fitzgerald Stadium and the mountains where the rain falls forever, and the prayers inside the trinity of churches were for good weather.

The day was windy but the rain stayed away. The weather forecasters were as inaccurate in their predictions as us pundits. The sunshine made for a fast game with five goals. Word was Cork wanted rain but Cork dumbfounded and confounded us yet again.

Fionn Fitzgerald kicks the equalising point in the dying seconds of the Munster SFC final in Killarney
Fionn Fitzgerald kicks the equalising point in the dying seconds of the Munster SFC final in Killarney

And if Fionn was Mr MacCool for Kerry then Cork's Barry O'Driscoll had the game of his life. He lifted his county with every bouncy stride and proved winning teams need young warriors who play without fear.

Barry scored what seemed like the winning goal and gave as fine a display as has ever been seen by a wing-back in this stadium. The young Nemo and UCC star proved that verve and pace cannot be stopped by tactics. He'd go through the hobs of hell with so much as a singed hair.

This second half was football as it should be played. Man to man. Cork played cagey in the first half and paid the price but then at half-time they figured Kerry out. Kerry were vulnerable to an up-the-middle attack and Cork cycled through the shortest route to goal

The Kerry bench was emptied and while you would have to quibble as to why Barry John Keane was replaced, the reserves brought us back in to a game where several endings were scripted in the last few minutes.

The ball was community property and was fought over like the family dog in a divorce case. The dog cannot be divided but Kerry and Cork got their fair share. A draw was a just result.

The Gooch scored a beauty. He drifted away behind his man and swung easy and slow like a golfer in the groove, and Kerry seemed like they were going to win this one. You could make a case that the Sports God on duty was a playwright or soap star such were the twists and turns.

Cork's Donncha O'Connor played the lead. He is a skilled and passionate man who will never give in. He too played his part in the beautiful game in beauty's home.

And what of Marc O Se, who did all that was asked of him? The vet played his heart out and there's more left yet.

Down below us small boys and girls were kicking away to their heart's content. I know of no other big stadium where the kids are allowed the kickabout after their heroes are gone home.

Up there in the mountains the sun is still shining bright and the clouds are cotton wool. Dreams are made in places like this, on days such as today.

You always know it was a mighty game when the kids come out to play.

Read more: Cork faith restored as Kerry strike late

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