Thursday 22 August 2019

Billy Keane: Kids are not alright as GAA puts women and children last

David Clifford brought speed and fight in to the attack. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Clifford brought speed and fight in to the attack. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Old men will think back on the summer of their dreams and reference sunny times. And they will state, as old men often do, "it never rained when we were young".

Yes this is the summer when the farmers prayed for rain and cabbages died from the thirst.

But will this year also be remembered as the year the Munster Football Championship was condemned as unfit for purpose?

This Munster final will be forgotten by Cork on the sound psychological premise which goes along the lines of 'if you can't remember, it never happened'.

Kerry will view the game as a new beginning heralding the restoration of the Kerry Way.

I left a few minutes before the end as I was fully nine hours late for Carol and Jeremy's wedding. The road through the industrial estate once home to Ford and Dunlop was red with Cork fans. They were suffering and I wonder would we keep coming back, as Cork always do.

The players weren't beaten for lack of heart. I genuinely thought they had a chance and the question is, 'were Kerry very good or were Cork very bad?'.

Cork started out with well- worked tap-in goals, but then they collapsed.

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Kerry played with pace and played our way, which is all-out attack. The backs still tend to head off to where the ball happened to be, and not where the ball was going to be. There was no tracking back by some of our forward players, but the defence got much better as the game went on.

The players who won the last run of Sams would nearly all agree that Tom O'Sullivan was the most important player. Tom was fast and skilful. He could be relied upon to mark the likes of Bernard Brogan, who was the best in the land.

Jason Foley is very fast and he managed to cut out so much ball with sharp, short bursts of pace.

Sean O'Shea and David Clifford brought speed and fight in to the attack. Both have the divil in them. Jack Barry was allowed to cut loose and he has gears. Points were kicked from far out.

But the Saturday evening throw-in kept bums on sofas. There were very few Kerry kids at the game.

The tradition of bringing small boys and girls to Munster finals goes back to the times when our dads lifted us over the turnstiles, to avoid a mechanical click. And a payment. We would squeeze in, or sit up on a lap and cheer our hearts out. The GAA kept kids at home when they scheduled this game for a Saturday night.

I love the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, known locally as Stade de Frank, after the long-term generalissimo of Cork football. The fans are right next to the action. There was one slippy corner. It was an ice rink in summer .

There were teething problems too in Croke Park when the pitch was over-sewn with plastic grass and was as over-patched as the man who bought too many follicles in a hair restoration clinic.

Sadly, women and children last seems to be the new slogan. The Munster ladies final was played before a tiny crowd.

Cork have had one of the greatest teams ever in any sport anywhere and the ladies final should be played in Páirc Ui Chaoimh.

These women have given years of service, yet 16- and 17-year-old boys, who are all good lads, are given preference.

Is there any hope for Cork then? We called to a house high up in the hill country near Mallow where the run-off waters in wet times feed two rivers - the Blackwater and the Clydagh.

I had orders from Oz to hand over the boots. Anna Browne, aged seven, tied up Jonathan Sexton's boots all on her own. I held her hand as she kicked a big football but the cerebral palsy and the size 9ƒ boots got the better of her.

Anna fell to the ground. I was expecting tears. Up she got, laughing, and she kicks the ball with the very same boot that scored Le Drop against France. Her school pals shrieked with delight in the splashy paddling pool. Anna jumped in and all was good with the world.

To the Cork footballers I would say, ye had a disastrous evening, but there's always a shot at redemption in the next round. You were brilliant for about 20 minutes. Build on that and turn 20 into 70. Think like little Anna Browne. Get up again and again.

The best rebels are always loyal.

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