Thursday 25 December 2014

Rebels' rivalry with Kerry is just like Scots' Old Firm – 'keeper O'Halloran

Jackie Cahill

Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30

Ken O'Halloran believes the Cork v Kerry rivalry is the biggest in the country. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ken O'Halloran believes the Cork v Kerry rivalry is the biggest in the country. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Cork against Kerry in the Munster Senior Football Championship is on a par with an Old Firm clash in Glasgow.

That's the view of Cork goalkeeper Ken O'Halloran, who has compared the county's relationship with Kerry to the bitter Celtic-Rangers divide in Scotland.

O'Halloran believes that the Cork-Kerry rivalry is "probably the biggest in the country" and the "Celtic-Rangers" of the GAA.

He said: "It's something you dream of playing in – the final game in Pairc Ui Chaoimh too.

"You just hope you can deliver a good performance on the day. When you're summer training in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and the pitch is beautiful you pinch yourself sometimes."

Cork haven't beaten Kerry in a Munster senior football final since 2008 but they have a glorious opportunity to end that run on home soil.

And O'Halloran is preparing for the Pairc Ui Chaoimh send-off safe in the knowledge that he is now Cork's undisputed number one.

The 27-year-old Bishopstown clubman played against Kerry in last summer's Killarney decider before losing his place to Alan Quirke for the All-Ireland series.

But Quirke retired last November and O'Halloran, who has had to patiently bide his time, is now firmly established between the sticks under new manager Brian Cuthbert.

Having waited so long for his chance, O'Halloran is eager to grab it with both hands and he is a keen student of the goalkeeper's craft.

"When you're in goal you're on your own," he admits.

"Each game, while it brings its own different situations, maybe a bit like golf, a lot of it is dealing with mental challenges.

"Experience is the main thing. Once you've come through big days and played well, caught a high ball under pressure, made a big save, or nailed a good kick-out, you go back to those moments and use them as a reward.

"Different games give you different scenarios to deal with. Goalkeeping has taken on a lot more scenarios.

"You've a lot more sweeping to do and be able to spray the ball from hand and from the ground.

"It's a highly pressurised position and a highly rewarding one too when you get it right.

"It's arguably the most important position on the pitch."

And while some goalkeepers recall being pitched in as young kids to make up the numbers, before deciding that it's the position for them, O'Halloran was in no doubt right from the start.

"You're a goalie by nature," he explains.

"Some people see a young lad with a big boot and try to force it on him. If you're a goalie you want to be a goalie. I always wanted to be in goal.

"It's something I took to straight away and felt I was good at it."

Irish Independent

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