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'We need Cork to be the Cork of old...and that's a Kerryman saying that'

Aidan O’Mahony believes Kerry need to be properly tested in the Munster Championship this year.

Aidan O'Mahony, playing for Kerry in 2016.
Aidan O'Mahony, playing for Kerry in 2016.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN KERRY WERE the side chasing five All-Ireland titles in a row, Cork often had to make do with the indignity of Mick O’Dwyer calling them the second-best team in the country after yet another Munster final defeat. 

Time moves on, however, and now Kerry are among the rest of the country bidding to prevent a five-in-a-row and the messaging to their local rivals has changed profoundly. 

“We need Cork to be the Cork of old”, Kerry legend Aidan O’Mahony tells The42

If Kerry are to build on an encouraging league campaign and qualify from the Super 8s format for the first time, O’Mahony reckons they need to be tested in the Munster championship. 

Last year, for example, Kerry hammered Cork by 17 points…and then lost their opening quarter-final to Galway. 

“For the Championship we need Cork to be really testing Kerry in the Munster Championship to see what we have.

“You can look at it two ways. The ideal from the Munster Championship is that Kerry need to be tested. We’ll be very honest here and say, ‘Will they be tested?’ and I don’t know.

“We need Cork to be the Cork of old; to be the Cork I played against when you never got anything easy and it was always a 50-50 game.

So going into the Super 8s, are you tested? You just don’t know. You could say the same about Dublin: are they going to be tested before the play a semi-final? Probably not. When you grow up in Kerry and you look at Munster finals and I look back – I won 10 – the Kerry/Cork games always took on a life of their own.

“They’re amazing, and we just need them.

“That’s a Kerryman saying it. We need Cork to be Cork.

“You need to be tested in the provincial championships before going into the Super 8s. If you look at the lads in the North or the lads in Connacht, they’ll definitely have one or two tough games under their belt by the time they get to the Super 8s.” 

How likely is that going to be, given Cork have since been relegated to Division Three since last summer’s Munster shellacking? 

O’Mahony takes issue with this reporter’s clumsy use of the word ‘terrible’ in posing the question. 

“Terrible is a strong word.

Never say never. The beauty about Cork is, Jesus Christ… if you’re in a dressing room and have Cork beside you, you’re never going to go out and say, ‘Ah, it is what it is, we’ll just turn up here.’

“There’ll definitely have to be some kick in them. What you’re saying to me there, they are hearing that as players, so they’ll be thinking ‘enough is enough.’

“The game this year, if it does go to the Munster final, it’s in Cork. Football needs it as well.”

A stern provincial test notwithstanding, O’Mahony believes an All-Ireland title is a realistic prospect for Kerry in their debut championship season under Peter Keane. 

“I think so, yeah. Any year you put on that jersey [the All-Ireland is a realistic prospect].

“Everything is going to be on Dublin this year. Any game they play they will be under the microscope and that’s a good thing for Kerry.

“Looking at the league, I think they can. Even the league final against Mayo – I know James Horan has said they should have won by more, which the players won’t forget either.

“If they get the defensive set-up right, they won’t be far off it. The pressure is on Dublin.” 

O’Mahony sees plenty of reasons for optimism in Kerry’s league performance…and he doesn’t ignore the four-point defeat to Mayo in the league final in his prognosis. 

“I think it was a good learning curve for them and I think the League final was the best. I think Kerry learned more. For the young lads it was good to have lost, and I mean that in a good way.

“You’ll have lads coming through in the last couple of years who played minor for three, four, five years and they are only used to going to Croke Park and they are only used to winning.

“So I think that bit of hurt will stand to them and push them forward.” 

To return to the theme that will dominate the summer: what is the attitude in the Kingdom to Dublin’s potential achievement?

“There’s not a fear of it”, says O’Mahony. 

“And we’ve won the five-in-a-row at minor so we’ll take that!”

Aidan O’Mahony was speaking at his unveiling as a brand ambassador for Paddy Power. 

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Gavin Cooney

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