Thursday 14 November 2019

Billy Keane: 'Real capital' the real deal

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

This is being penned on Good Friday. We are meant to suffer. Cork are All-Ireland champions and deservedly so. When I was young they used to put the viewing card on TV all day.

We had to eat salty fish and watch the record player playing old favourites.

They suffered their share in Cork over the years. Cork always owned the Real Taoiseach and the Real Capital. Finally they own the Real Team.

For Cork, there was always this thing about Dublin. Wanting to be bigger and wanting to go there and take it over. Here's a verse from 'The Night the Goat Broke Loose on the Grand Parade', a Cork anthem.

'Now there's a girl called Lily Horner,

And she comes from Punch's Corner,

And she'd swear she'd see Dublin e'er she die,

Ah but the goat came up behind her,

And gave her such a winder,

She didn't wait to wish her friends goodbye.

It's not that the Cork people have an inferiority complex when it comes to Dublin. It's more like the Norse or whoever it was decreed Dublinia was to be the fulcrum of Ireland got it totally wrong. The constant battle for the real this and the real that means a keen rivalry, not to mention outright dislike.

Is this the future then? Will head counts decide where Sam is heading in these days of mass emigration?

Cork is so big and has so many clubs they didn't even know how many good footballers they had. Billy Morgan trawled the county and found players like Pearse O'Neill playing with junior clubs.

In the blinkered Cork past, the Enola Gay would have been let under the radar like a paper plane.

Dublin have the numbers on the census but not the numbers in terms of players. Some schools in Dublin do not even play Gaelic games. It might interfere with the rugby, you see. And the soccer. The ban in reverse. One thing for sure is if Dublin win the All-Ireland this year it will lead to a huge increase in playing numbers, but at the moment they are well behind Cork.

So is all rosy by the Lee? No it's not. Sometimes you wonder if the Cork County Board are double agents.

Last Saturday Paul Kerrigan, Cork's speedster wing-forward, picked up a hamstring injury while playing for Nemo. As late as last Monday, Ciaran Sheehan injured his ankle in a championship match. He's okay for Sunday but he was doubtful all week. Sheehan also featured for the Cork U-21s on Saturday.

Young Footballer of the Year Aidan Walsh also played for Cork U-21s. He did his ankle and so didn't play for Cork IT in the Monday night game in which Sheehan was injured. But he would have played.

So much for player welfare. Are the GAA afraid of taking on the Cork board? Are the '4Cs' aware of what happened? Why then aren't the Cork board on trial? Alan Brogan missed out on a league final when he didn't do any great damage to an opponent.

If this happened in Kerry the chairman of the county board would be sent out to line the field with a toothbrush, a tube of sherbet and a foot-long ruler.

There's something about Good Friday that brings out the Roman in us. Just one more nail before we go to the game itself.

Big games shouldn't be played on Easter Sunday. It's a family day. Second only to Christmas. A day for the lamb. A day when grandfather's snores end with a whistle. A day for chocolate moustaches on small children.


The last time these two met was in February when chocolate eggs were mere cocoa bean tadpoles hanging off trees in Ghana. Cork were well beaten. They were just back from holiday. Enough said.

The time before that was in the All-Ireland semi-final last August. Cork won by a point. Dublin looked like winning but panicked.

Some maintain they choked. No they didn't. Dublin just tried too hard. Most of them hadn't played in a semi before. Cork had, and they won. Dublin are better prepared for this one. The stats show their defence is the best in the league but I'm not sure if they mark tightly enough.

Cork do not like constant harassment. Who does? Dublin will not give them a minute's peace but can they keep it going to the end? Dublin will be in better mental and physical condition this time but Cork have discovered their own county. They have a very strong panel.

Pat Gilroy says he doesn't even know where he stashed his National League medal and that the competition isn't that important. That's what you say after winning, not before.

Cork's county board aren't exactly fretting either. It's like nobody wants to win.

But the reality is that the two will go at each other from the start like fighting cocks.

Cork are the better team on paper, but Dublin are probably fitter right now. That might just land them the title of Real Champions.

Irish Independent

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