Sunday 21 October 2018

Cork's poor record at this level heaps the pressure on An Ghaeltacht to deliver

Damian Stack takes a look at Mallow’s opponents in Sunday’s Munster club semi-final– Kerry champions An Ghaeltacht

An Ghaeltacht selector Dara Ó Cinnéide
An Ghaeltacht selector Dara Ó Cinnéide

On the Kerry side of the county bounds it stands as a proud record, on the other side as a painful rebuke. It's been ten years since a Kerry club tasted defeat at the hands of a Cork club in either the junior or intermediate club championships.

Had you told us then, in 2007 after Keel fell short to Canovee in the junior, that would be the case we'd hardly have believed you and, yet, in that time Kerry's dominance has become almost pro forma.

It would be a surprise if Mallow won this weekend simply for the reason that it's been so long since a Cork team did beat a Kerry team at this level. In the last ten years the only Cork side to win this title was Clyda Rovers, in 2013, and they did so by beating Milltown / Malbay, the conquerors of Currow.

The slightly strange thing about Cork's poor record against Kerry opposition at this level - Kerry have won ten of the last nine Munster titles - is that An Ghaeltacht are probably under more pressure to deliver the goods here.

Mallow, despite hosting the game, have much less to lose in a very real sense. They can throw off the shackles and go for it. That makes them a dangerous proposition for the Kerry champions and An Ghaeltacht selector Dara Ó Cinnéide is well aware of the challenge they pose.

"They are [a very good side]," he says.

"But you'd expect a town of the population of Mallow to have a decent grouping. They've Aaron Cahill from Brosna and James Loughrey from Antrim for the last number of years and we're familiar with Matthew Taylor and Ryan Harkin and Cian O'Riordan and these boys and you know they've established themselves as footballers within their own county.

"Having seen videos they're a big, physical team with a very strong spine and they're going to make it tricky for us no more than Templenoe the last day. They're exactly the type of team that fits the bill at intermediate level and into Munster any team can beat the other team on a given day.

"There aren't going to be mismatches at intermediate level, it just seems to be a more even playing pitch. Mallow are exactly the type of team who could beat us if we're not on our game."

Mallow, interestingly, are managed by a native west Kerry man, former Annascaul player Keith Moynihan.

"He's very familiar with what we're about so he'd have a very good insight into us," Ó Cinnéide says.

"But having said that the way things are at the moment all these teams know each other anyway. There's stuff readily available now on teams between going to see them and up on YouTube and all of that. It'd give you a certain element of preparation, but other than that it's very much on the day."

An Ghaeltacht report a clean bill of health of this weekend's game having played a West Kerry league final against Lispole last weekend.

"We put out lads who hadn't got the game against Templenoe and gave them all a game," Ó Cinnéide explains.

"The result then was reflective of that I suppose. Lispole were the better team, we wanted to win it of course, but we just didn't do enough to win it. We got no injuries out of it anyway so we have a full team for next Sunday."

The west Kerry out-fit are widely considered in Kerry to be the real deal. They've got an excellent goalkeeper in Tomas Mac an tSaoir. In defence they've got former footballer of the year Marc Ó Sé, his first cousin Pádraig was man of the match in the Kerry county final and Kerry up-and-comer Brian Ó Beaglaoich is a real gem.

An Ghaeltacht's midfield is really impressive too. Rob Ó Sé and Seán Ó Gairbhí have been having really impressive seasons. Then up front they've got an impressive array of talent.

Dara Ó Sé at centre-forward is developing into a fine player while along side him PJ Mac Láimh has been the find of the season in Kerry. In the full-forward line they've got two players being spoken of as having Kerry potential - corner-forward Tomás Ó Sé and Éanna Ó Conchúir. Seán M Ó Conchúir, meanwhile, is a wily veteran.

They play a really attractive brand of football too. It'll be a real test of Mallow to get over this side, who like every other team to emerge from Kerry at this time of the year, will have ambitions of reaching Croke Park in February.

"I'd hope so," Ó Cinnéide says.

"The target at the beginning of the year starting out was to win the Intermediate championship in Kerry, but we don't want to leave the side down in Kerry either. When you go over to Mallow the next day you're representing the county and sure Templenoe would love to be there and we're just carrying that bit more.

"They got good encouragement coming through that game against Templenoe. They had their few days celebration and it's only natural I would hope that young lads would want more.

"We had our game against Lispole on Saturday, all lads are back now on an even keel and we're training away this week, we won't be flogging anybody at this time of the year, we've a lot of work put in all year so it's just a matter of focussing in on what Mallow are all about with what we're doing.

"When the euphoria died down after the county final of course you'd see loads that you'd have to work on and that's what we'll have been doing the week or two."