O'Donoghue: We don't fear Kerry's reputation
This evening, the Cork U-21 footballers find themselves in an unusual position of being both defending Munster champions and the home team - but also big underdogs in their provincial decider.
That's because Jack O'Connor's Kerry side will arrive in Páirc Uí Rinn where they'll be expected to take another step towards the All-Ireland title. The Kingdom are pulling from teams that have won both the last three All-Ireland minor titles and the last three Hogan Cups. And even though some are expecting one-way traffic in Cork tonight, Rebel captain Sean O'Donoghue believes his side are more than ready for the challenge and he insists they have no reason to fear the Kingdom.
"Even a few buddies I'd be talking to, they'd say it's 'damage limitation', things like that," said the EirGrid ambassador.
"No one at all is rating us simply because Kerry have all their superstars or whatever. But like, at the end of the day, it's just two teams going out to play and whoever brings it out on the day will win it. I don't know if Kerry will bring it or not, but I'm confident our boys will."
And despite facing a team that will also include club All-Ireland winners, O'Donoghue knows belief won't be a problem for his side.
"Every time we play Kerry, no matter what age, we're going in as underdogs. And even people from Cork wouldn't rate us and things like that.
"But everyone in the dressing room knows we can do it, we believe in what we have. Obviously they have three All-Ireland-winning teams, but at the end of the day we're the Munster champions and we're looking to retain that."
Cork have named nine of the side that beat Kerry in last year's U-21 decider, including O'Donoghue, who was part of the Cork senior hurling set-up earlier this year but has decided to concentrate on football for the early part of this season at least.
And he believes the Rebel youngsters can go all the way this time.
"In fairness to (Kieran) Kingston, I was going to be half the time with hurling and half with football, and that wasn't good for anyone," said the Inniscarra man.
"So he said to me, 'You're captain of the football', and I don't mind if you give it priority', which was very good of him. He said he'll see how I'm going heading into the summer, hurling-wise. If I'm playing well, he might bring me back in.
"Being made captain and having the same management as last year, and the fact that I believe we can win the All-Ireland this year, they are the three things that basically made me want to play again this year.
"Hopefully it'll be the May bank holiday weekend before I'm hurling, but that will involve winning a few games in the meantime.
"We'll be into the hurling then and I'll be flat out hurling then for the summer with the club, we're a hurling club. We'll have that and hopefully we'll do a bit in the U-21s, and hopefully play well enough to get into the senior panel as well."
O'Donoghue knows many have come unstuck by trying to play both codes but he refuses to rule out a dual career down the line if he was wanted by both parties.
"I know the whole dual player thing is gone but if it's accommodated in the right way, it can be done. Football might be more physical and hurling might be more skilful, but I myself would think if I was hurling away maybe three times a week, and football once per week, I wouldn't be too bad.
"If you keep up with the physicality of football, you'll get your football back in a session or two. In hurling, you have to be hurling the whole time to be successful. I just think if a player is up to the standard, and it's worth having him with both, it's about accommodating him in the right way."
That is for down the line. For now, O'Donoghue and Co are about trying to make up for the near-miss in last year's All-Ireland U-21 final against Mayo.
"We were against the wind in the first half and up by three points heading into the break. We handed them two goals before the break and before we knew it we were down by three. In the second half, we made stupid mistakes that cost us.
"Everyone who is there this year is playing with that hurt as well. But the way we felt last year if we beat Kerry, there's nothing better as a Cork man than beating Kerry at football. We're hopefully going to prove everyone wrong, everyone is doubting us, everyone bar ourselves, so we'll go out now prove everyone wrong hopefully."
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