IT will go down in history as the greatest killer goal in Gaelic football since Offaly’s Seamus Darby denied Kerry the five-in-a-row in the dying seconds of the All-Ireland final of 1982 – that’s how significant Mark Keane’s goal at the end of extra-time in Sunday’s Munster SFC Kerry vs. Cork semifinal at Pairc Ui Chaoimh was.

That Keane, home from an Aussie Rules career with Collingwood thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak, shouldn’t even have been on the pitch with the Rebels only adds to the intrigue and won’t help ease Kerry’s burden as their status as potential All-Ireland winners was blown away on a dank and dark Leeside winter’s evening.

Kerry are out of the Championship after their first game of the delayed season. Fact. They were beaten by a team that played all their football this year in Division Three of the National Football League. Fact. 

They lost to their bitter rivals on Cork soil. Fact. And Fungi is still missing in a bad year for the Kingdom. Fact.

Their 1-12 to 0-13 defeat to Cork and that Keane goal has been debated on every back page and TV and radio station in the land. And one Kerryman with little sympathy for those who now wear the county jersey he graced with such distinction is Tomas O Se, himself resident in Cork for many years now. Shocking was one of the words he used in his analysis on behalf of RTE’s Sunday Game.

The five-time All-Ireland winner declared, “Conditions were tough, when you see Stephen O’Brien being changed and Brian Ó Beaglaoich being brought in, and Kerry setting up as defensively as they did.  I think they got it totally and utterly wrong.

“I thought it was shambolic from the word go. It was as poor a display as I’ve seen from Kerry since 2001 when they lost heavily to Meath. They played Monaghan, they played Donegal, and we were raving about how direct they were, about the shape they had, the more defensive they were...I think they set up with pure fear today.

“Coming down today the one thing you’d hope is that no matter what else, the Kerry team would be in a mentally strong place to really go to war with Cork. That’s a given but that wasn’t there today. It’s a question that’s going to be thrown at management. The subs they brought on were all defensive.

“They brought on Killian Spillane -- he went very well. At no stage would they change it up and go full-on, and go manic pressing the way they have been up to now. I just thought it was - on the sideline and on the field - it was shocking from Kerry.”

Keane returned home from Australia six weeks ago to spend time with his family as the world gets to grips with Covid, and his desire to return to the Cork colors was made known to Rebels boss Ronan McCarthy before the 20-year-old had even landed at Cork International Airport.

“It’s funny the way things work but I suppose we had no hesitation in bringing him in, but Mark has huge interest in Cork football. He’s played underage all the way up and even when he’s been away he’s been interested in the team and stays in touch with us and the minute he was back he wanted to play,” revealed Murphy after the shock of shocks.

“We brought him in and it was evident to me he was going to be an addition to us and the way it worked out today was great. The first thing is the player wants to play, that’s the first thing, and then the second thing is that we did our business properly with Collingwood.

“We sought permission from them for him to play and they gave it to us and we’re very grateful for it but ultimately, Mark has a huge interest in Cork football. I think he’s back about six weeks but obviously, he needed to self-isolate when he was back. He’s back nearly as long as we’re back but obviously, he couldn’t train with us the first couple of weeks.

“I suppose the goal at the end even shows, and I think it was Tommy Walsh actually inside under him as well, he’s a great target for long balls. He’s a good passer of the ball. He’s a great target man, great physical presence and, look, he has just added to the quality and depth to the group.”

McCarthy, however, didn’t share the sense of shock that followed this result. 

“I don’t think it’s as much of a shock when people look at it,” he said. “We served notice last year against Kerry that we were at that level and we performed really well against Dublin and Tyrone in both matches.

“We felt we were in a better place than even last year, stronger panel, and it all came together and we got what we deserved in the end.”

For Kerry boss Peter Keane, the loss will linger long into this winter of all winters when lockdown and isolation will only add to the sense of pain as Kerry face up to their exit with no second chance via the backdoor.

Keane told RTÉ Sport: “Obviously there’s no doubt about it, it’s disappointing. But I suppose you have to congratulate Cork. They never let us get away. When you are hanging on like that, it is always dangerous for a goal and that is what happened to us. We are obviously disappointed.

“We’ll just have to look at ourselves, really. We had plenty of opportunities and just didn’t put them away. Ball-retention and maybe a little bit of game management towards the end was lacking. That is just something we have to go and learn from.

“We were two up and had chances to go further up, if not mind the ball. It happens and it happened us, so we just have to suck it up, get on with it and congratulate Cork and wish them well for the rest of the year.”

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Clare, Cork for 2nd Round

THE second round of the All-Ireland qualifiers takes place on Saturday when Clare will take on Banner legend Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford and Tipperary will meet bitter rivals Cork.

Clare booked their place in the next round of knockout games with a 0-27 to 3-17 win over Laois at Nowlan Park on Saturday when their captain David McInerney was red-carded for an off the ball incident shortly before halftime.

“I didn’t see the incident myself but I spoke to David at halftime,” said Clare boss Brian Lohan. 

“He was jostling, as fellas jostle, and it was the linesman on the far side that made the call. Very disappointed. I thought the game was played in an excellent spirit with players working hard.”

Cork erased the memory of their Munster SHC defeat to Waterford with a 1-25 to 0-22 win over Dublin in Semple Stadium and manager Kieran Kingston was happy with the response from his young team to their provincial championship exit.

“We were hugely, hugely disappointed with last week. Today does not take away from what we did last week and what we didn’t do, but look, we got a reaction from the lads,” Kingston told RTE. “We saw a fight there during the week in training and they brought that to the table today in terms of attitude, intensity and workrate.” 

Rossies Don’t Challenge

ROSCOMMON never mounted the challenge many expected as Mayo eased past them in the Connacht SFC semifinal by 1-16 to 0-13 on Sunday, but for Cillian O’Connor it was the impact of the youngsters alongside him that made all the difference, not any deficiencies on the part of the home team.

Man of the Match as Mayo booked a provincial final date with Galway, O’Connor insisted afterwards, “The young lads have done really well. There are a lot of them who have settled in and some of them who aren’t even here today that are pushing the standards on outside the 26, bursting trying to get into it.

“They’ve added a bit of freshness and a bit of innocence to it, so we’re just enjoying it, going session to session and taking it week by week.”

Galway, awarded their semifinal with Sligo after Covid issues with the Yeats County squad, will be without the injured Damien Comer for Sunday’s Connacht final date with Mayo.