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Rebels have 'raised the bar' to new level -- O'Mahony

Kerry are aiming to knock All-Ireland senior football champions Cork off their perch this season, according to Kingdom star Aidan O'Mahony.

With Kerry -- still hurting from last year's disappointing All-Ireland campaign -- setting out on their road to redemption this Sunday when they face Tipperary in the first round of the Munster championship, four-time All-Ireland winner O'Mahony has admitted that arch-rivals Cork are the team to beat this season.

"Cork have the strongest panel in the country at the moment," the Rathmore man pointed out. "They are after raising the bar. They are the team to reach this year.

"They are the team to be knocked off their perch. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves. If we meet them we meet them, and then it will all come down to the day."

With that shock All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Down last July now fully digested and analysed, it's time for Jack O'Connor's men to exorcise those demons but O'Mahony and Co can take one positive from their enforced summer holidays -- it was their first prolonged break from inter-county football in seven years.


"It was good to get that break," the former All Star defender agreed. "Over the last six or seven years we have been lucky enough to get to an All-Ireland final every year so it was a big change last year to be knocked out early in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

"It's been good for a lot of players, especially the older players like myself. That's been the one good thing that has come from last year -- the freshness. We finished in August and had a long break from it.

"The batteries are recharged. The hunger is back. I can see that in training this year. There is a great intensity and great atmosphere in there. Hopefully what happened to us last year will stand to us this year."

Admitting that age is starting to creep up on some of Kerry's big name stars, himself included, O'Mahony feels that the Kingdom need to march to September through the front-door rather than risk the fatigue-factor of the back-door route.

"At my age now, 30, and a lot of the players are like me, we want to win as much as we can. The Munster championship is the Munster championship. It is very important to win," the Kerry defender said.

"Looking at the back-door route now, with the players we have in the sense that we are getting older and the legs aren't getting any faster, the front-door is probably the ideal situation to go through."

But while some players might be getting older, age isn't everything either, as the Cork City-based Garda explains.

"Ageing is one thing but you can't beat championship time either," O'Mahony said. "All the lads have been around the block.

"They have all played in All-Ireland finals so hopefully our age will stand to us in that sense."

And the first team to stand in Kerry's way this year will be John Evans' Tipperary this Sunday in Killarney. While it's a game that everybody expects Kerry to win en route to a potential, and likely, provincial final showdown with the All-Ireland kingpins in July, O'Mahony is refusing to look beyond the Tipp challenge.

"We are not looking past next Sunday. You could be setting your sights on Cork in the Munster final but we know ourselves that we have to get over Tipperary first, and the winners of that then play Limerick," O'Mahony said.

"You have a point to prove every year when you are from Kerry. There is always a lot of pressure in Kerry; the supporters expect us to be in the final every year.

"But there is no pressure on us (for Sunday). It's the first round of the championship. Tipperary are coming in under the radar.

"We will go in as favourites. We know that they have been improving over the last few years. We know they will give us a good game as well."

Irish Independent