The short passing game isn't exactly my favourite style of football but at its best it can be quite exciting. One way or another, this is what is going to be on display in the Mallow GAA grounds in Cork today.
Nemo Rangers of Cork and Dr Crokes of Killarney are both mobile, quick and super-fit teams who will play the short passing game with the emphasis on support play. The last thing either side will want to do is kick the ball speculatively up the field. If there is nothing on for the man in possession, they will recycle the ball, keep possession and try to work their way into an opening. It's all a bit like modern rugby and it's not my cup of tea at all.
For the most part neither team possesses great physical height or strength and so they have been drilled in such a way that they rely on their savvy, speed, and fitness to overcome that lack of physical presence.
The Dr Crokes method of play is a far cry from the swagger and strength of the Killarney giants of the past such as Jackie Lyne and Dick Fitzgerald and, of course, Johnny Culloty, who would have been one of the greatest forwards in history but for injury (and he subsequently had a distinguished career for Kerry in goal).
The outcome will most likely hinge on the form of the two best known players on the pitch today, Colm Cooper and Paul Kerrigan. Everyone knows the Gooch can turn the course of any game on his own brilliance and if this happens a few times today, it's all over for Nemo. He will be marked tightly but the Crokes are full of ingenuity and cleverness, and they won't be found wanting in exploring ways of giving the Gooch good possession in good positions.
Kerrigan played a vital role last year for Cork in the forward line but in that campaign he was surrounded by some of the biggest, strongest players in the country, who fed him quality ball. In this game he will have to do it pretty much on his own and on top of that he will have the added pressure of being judged beside his counterpart, the Gooch.
Nemo have an enviable record in the club championship. They have won 14 Munster titles and seven All-Ireland titles. And it's no secret that the Killarney Crokes have modelled themselves on the Cork side. I expect a good bit of needle in Mallow with Cork-Kerry rivalry coming to the fore, an edge that is expressed as vigorously at club level as it is between the county sides. My money, though, is on the Crokes. I have seen them playing several times as they overcame serious opposition in Kerry and in Munster.
And I'm also betting that they will meet the other Crokes, from Kilmacud, after the Dublin team has beaten Crossmaglen in the semi-final. The Killarney Crokes will have to overcome St Brigid's, the Connacht champions, to get there but I feel confident they will. Which of the two Crokes will prevail in the final? I'll refrain from making that prediction until the day!
Nemo Rangers v Dr Crokes,
Sunday Indo Sport