Barry O’Shea: ‘Kerry Against Cork Is Like Brazil Against Argentina’

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Former Kerry star Barry O’Shea writes for on Sunday’s big match between Cork and Kerry

barry_oshea_1THE Kerry v Cork rivalry is the Brazil v Argentina of the GAA.

There’s something special about it, the effects of which linger off the pitch as well.

I remember if you met any other inter-county player from around the country you’d always go over and have an easy conversation because you held something in common with them.

But there was always a coolness when dealing with the Cork lads. There was always a bit of bite in the air.

It does mean a lot to Kerry players to beat Cork, but the rivalry isn’t the be all and end all anymore. Since the back door came in we’ve lost to Cork and won All Irelands.

Still, the guy you always want to beat is the guy next door and Sunday will be no exception. The players won’t spare each other one bit.

This will be the last Munster final played Pairc Uí Chaoimh and while most of my memories of the place involve rain and bad days, we’ve had a few good ones down there as well.

1996 sticks out in my mind as a good day. We made the breakthrough in Munster under Paidi and it had been ten years since we beat Cork in a final down there. We followed it up with a win in the league final in ’97 which was also, predictably, a very wet day.

The way the weather is shaping  up for Sunday, the old stadium will probably get an appropriate send off – added to a Kerry win of course!

Cork dispatched of Kerry very easily in the league this year, but I wouldn’t read much into that game. For a start it was three months ago.

I remember thinking while watching the game that Kerry didn’t look fresh, they looked like a side that had trained a lot and were not on their toes. I think we’ll see a different team on Sunday.

There’s a lot of negativity around the county about this Kerry side, but I still see a lot of excellent players in the squad. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if they won.

Cork have a big reputation coming into this and are the favourites, but I don’t know what it’s built on.

Ok, they got to a league final, but they’re not world beaters.

Recently, from a few quarters there have been calls for Kerry to adopt a more defensive game plan, but I don’t think it’s in our DNA to play that way.

For a start we don’t have the personnel to adapt that system effectively.

Also, you’d feel if Kerry went out and beat Cork by six to seven points, it would nearly be treated as a loss. I don’t think Kerry people would stand for it. It just isn’t in our make up to go out and be cynical.

Take the 2011 All Ireland final against Dublin for instance, we tried to kill the game off by adopting a defensive system and it ended up costing us. The Kerry way of football is to have a go and beat your man.

One thing that has raised eyebrows with the Kerry team this week is the amount of switches in the team, particularly in the back line.

Peter Crowley has been relegated to the bench, Paul Murphy has taken his place in right wing back and Aidan O’Mahony has come in at full back.

The management have seen more of these players than we have so it’s very hard to know whether it will work or not. We just have to trust Eamon Fitzmaurice and his men on that.

I have to say though, having watched Killian Young this year, he looks fresh, strong and back to his best.

The one worry I would have is in the forwards with Donnchadh Walsh, James O’Donogue and Declan O’Sullivan all having problems with injuries lately.  The Cork full back line is physically strong and a wet day will suit them.

The key battle will be in midfield where we are a bit more experienced. Aidan Walsh is an excellent player, but it remains to be seen if Fintan Goold is really a dominant performer in the middle of the park at this level.

It’s a very hard game to call because I’ve friends in Cork and they’re saying they are not firing on all cylinders. The same noises are coming from the Kerry camp.

The weather will have a big bearing on it and it will be a close game like it always is.

We’ve had a lot of replays in recent years so I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see the sides bring the game back to Killarney.


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