Kelly: Win over Kerry was only first step
THERE are a number of regular charges levelled against the Cork senior football team.
The most common complaint is that the build-up play is too ponderous and that they never go for the jugular against teams.
Getting off to bad starts is another regular accusation.
If we do accept that Cork can take a while to get going, however, and that – last year’s quarter-final with Mayo aside – they have only lost to Kerry in the championship since Conor Counihan took over, then it follows that they finish well.
Also, if deficits have regularly been overcome, a lack of panic is surely another quality that the side possesses.
Unsurprisingly, Patrick Kelly, one of the Rebels’ coolest customers, agrees with that assertion.
“That is a trait of ours,” he says, “we’ve never really thrown in the towel or anything like that.
“The Mayo game last year was a disappointing performance but generally when we’re expected to win against lesser opposition we tend to deliver, regardless of how it’s done.
“We’re aware that the game isn’t won in the first 10 minutes but it can be lost. We do have the fitness and intensity levels to keep going for 70 minutes though and hopefully wear the opposition down.”
Sunday’s Munster final with Clare in Limerick could be another case of Cork having to wear down opponents. Going in as massive favourites, they are almost in a no-win situation.
While Kelly acknowledges that a provincial decider against someone other than Kerry is different, winning is still the most direct route to the All-Ireland series, however.
“The natural rivalry and the buzz about playing Kerry makes that different to any other game you’d play,” he says, “but again we just have to focus, it’s the next step towards the ultimate goal, which is the All-Ireland.
“The route we want to take is winning five games to win an All-Ireland. We’ve won the first one, it’s about focusing on step two now, we’re not looking beyond that, it’s about getting the job done and moving on.”
Cork are at least fortunate that they have a win over Kerry under their belts. Kelly is obviously satisfied with how that game panned out, but he doesn’t want to look back on it as the high point of the year.
Instead, he wants to build on the positive things achieved and learn from the mistakes.
“You try to use the Kerry game as a platform,” he says.
“We did a lot of good things against Kerry, we’d be happy with the performance, but at the same time they had three- or four-goal chances and if they had stuck one of those it would have been different ball game.
“Bryan Sheehan was missing as well and he’s worth a few points from frees, so we’re not getting carried away and thinking we’re world-beaters or anything, we know where we lie in the bigger scheme of things.
“At the same time, as forwards we played better than we had against Kerry in recent times, we moved better and made them think that bit more.
The selection of Nicholas Murphy at full-forward was a surprise sprung by Cork that day after Pearse O’Neill and Fintan Goold were late withdrawals through injury.
That Murphy – a midfielder for so long – did well there reinforces Kelly’s view that the Cork panel is so strong right now.
“I suppose it was strange in that Pearse and Fintan dropped out within 48 hours of the game for different reasons.
“These things happen so the strength of the panel is important, I suppose two years ago when we won it we all harped on about how important that was. Last year, with injuries, retirements and fellas dropping off the panel it probably hit us more than we realised.
“This year we’ve been building a squad, you need a good 23, 24 lads capable of playing at senior level and I think we’re getting close to that.”
As a primary schoolteacher, Kelly finds himself with a lot of free time in the summer, enabling him to dedicate more of his energies towards peaking at the right times.
“Definitely, it’s an ideal job for an inter-county player in that you can do that extra bit of stretching and training, and then be able to enjoy some more recovery time too.
“You live the life of a professional athlete for the two months that are in it and for me it’s been a huge benefit.
“It’s just mainly about trying to get yourself right and using the time you have to recover properly.”
The free time also allows him to work on a new project, having launched a new children’s magazine, Rebel Óg, focusing on GAA in the county. With the first edition safely out, thoughts now turn to how he can improve that.
“There are 101 different things we could have done differently and done better so it’s about improving those for the next issue,” he says.
“It was just something that we said we’d try, we’re very encouraged with how it’s gone.
“We’re getting good feedback, kids are sending in a huge amount of competition entries and things like that, so that’s the good that they’re enjoying it.
“Hopefully it’ll become part of the furniture in Cork GAA.”
Pa Kelly win over Kerry was the first step
Kelly: Win over Kerry was only first step