The All Ireland Final between Cork and Kerry on September 20, 2008 will be a game based on evening up the scores and avenging tough defeats
For Cork, though they overcame Kerry in this year’s Munster Final, this team has not reached the Holy Grail of taking the Same Maguire cup Leeside yet, and the closest they came was in 2007 when they were sent home sour-pussed after a ten point defeat to none other than Kerry.
For Kerry, Cork abused them in this year’s Munster final, and though it might have been a blessing in disguise as they went on a voyage of self-discovery in the qualifiers, that defeat to the men in the red jerseys will still rankle.
So, what team is favorite? Kerry stuttered and stumbled around in the qualifiers, getting past Longford, Sligo, and Antrim until they came to Croke Park and put Dublin football back several years by deboning the Dubs in a performance that was as a clinical as it was physical. In doing so, they firmly establish themselves as one of the favorites for the All Ireland. Of course they followed this up with an underwhelming win over Meath in the semi final, but who remembers semifinals when one is taking baby shots in the Sam Maguire?
For Cork, their Munster title ensured that they would be taking the express train to the top and not making Saturday stops in obscure parts of the country. They dispatched Donegal in the quarter final, but just when you thought Tyrone were going to set up a grudge match of their own with Kerry, Cork went and beat them with some aplomb, refreshing their credentials as top All Ireland Contenders as the team that beat the team that always beat Kerry!
It must not be forgotten that it Cork win on Sunday, they will have beaten Tyrone and twice vanquished Kerry, the teams who are the owners of the last five All Ireland titles combined. That is the hard way to the top folks, that is really earning your medal.
Of course then there is the subplot to this suspense-filled scenario. If Tadhg Kennelly is part of the winning team for Kerry on Sunday, he will make history as being the first man to even win an All Ireland Football medal and an AFL Aussie Rules Grand Final medal.
In 2005, when playing for the swans, Kennelly became the first Irish man to win a Grand Final down under, and then returned home to follow his brother and father’s footsteps and win an All Ireland medal.
After an understandably shaky start, Kennelly has grown in stature over the season and is now 70 minutes away from achieving his goal – at the first attempt.
But Cork stand in his way, and this Cork team have no interest in any traditions or any quest for immortality that aren’t inside their own county lines.
It has been 19 years since Sam has been in Cork city and St. Patrick’s Street has changed a lot since that parade passed through the town.
What has not changed is their desire to win the Cup and their play this year suggests that they are ready to take the final step.
It promises to be a passionate match. Cork v Kerry, managers Conor Counihan and Jack O’Connor pitting their wits against each other for the third time this season.
Have Kerry learned their lessons from the Munster final defeat? Can Cork find the answers one more time on the biggest stage of them all?
If you can’t get to a TV to watch the game wherever you are, then listen to Michael O’Muircheartaigh on RTE Radio 1. There is no broadcaster alive who understands this rivalry better, and there is no man who will put you in there with every shoulder, every point and every moment in the All Ireland Final.
Enjoy this game, if it is half as entertaining as the hurling final, then a generally ho hum year in the GAA will be redeemed by two masterpiece finals.