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'Some days things just fall into place' - The last time Kildare and Cork met in Thurles

Jason Ryan reflects on the 2015 qualifier between the counties ahead of this Saturday’s league meeting.

Kildare's Paul Cribbin and Cork's Brian Hurley.
Kildare's Paul Cribbin and Cork's Brian Hurley.
Image: INPHO

THE BACKDROP TO the game was both teams trying to piece back their seasons after familiar disappointments against provincial rivals.

At the end of June, Kildare were humbled by Dublin as they conceded 5-18 in a Leinster beating. In early July, Cork came agonisingly close to taking down Kerry on the latter’s home patch. But the draw sent them to a replay where they could never scale the heights they had previously reached.

On 25 July 2015, the pair were brought together on a Saturday evening in Thurles. Kildare hit full speed and were worthy winners by eight points, Cork exited the summer on a low note. It was part of a black weekend for the county’s GAA fortunes, their hurlers soundly beaten the following day by Galway at the same venue.

Kildare had entered that game on an upswing after defeating Offaly and Longford in turn whereas Cork were trying to process the Munster final reversal six days previously.

Jason Ryan was Kildare boss then, later filled a role in helping the Cork management setup in 2019 and will be paying close attention as the two counties commence their 2021 campaign on Saturday, returning again to Semple Stadium for a meeting.

“I remember that game really well. Some days things just go right and fall into place. It was a Cork team that was very strong at the time but they had just come off the back of losing the Munster final.

“It does take something out of you. Sometimes you look at the reasons why a team doesn’t perform but I think a lot of credit needs to go to the Kildare guys that evening, they really brought their A-game and were on point with every aspect of their game. Some good memories from that day for sure.

“The Offaly game was important for that team but we beat Laois in a replay earlier in the year and that was massive. It was a building thing. Kildare and Offaly have a huge rivalry, bordering counties. That was a big win, the Longford game they performed very well and confidence was up so they would have gone into the Cork game confident.”

jason-ryan Kildare manager Jason Ryan celebrates the qualifier win over Cork. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Their confidence levels were vindicated but the win was coloured by what happened next. They took on Kerry and leaked seven second-half goals to cause a 27-point hammering.

“Our aim that year was to get to a quarter-final and see where it takes us,” says Ryan.

“We achieved it but it didn’t take us where we wanted, we weren’t competitive against Kerry. We were competitive with Kerry for much of the first half but the second half was just demolition. Very, very disappointing.”

Ryan has witnessed the work of the Cork squad more recently. They were left deflated after not having a Munster title to show for their 2020 efforts but he still feels they have made progress.

“I would see Cork as having had a talented bunch of players. My experience would be that they’re working really hard to be competitive with the best teams in the country. I would have felt they made really good progress in 2019 and there was some positives in 2020 but it was just broken up, it was just such a strange year. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the progress that they’ve made this year. The management team worked really hard to bring in new players. I think they’ve made big big strides.”

He pinpoints inconsistency as an issue for Kildare but has sympathy for Jack O’Connor given the disjointed nature of recent campaigns.

“It’s still struggling to be consistent in the big performance and it’s not dissimilar to Cork in that. There’s still quite a few of the U21 team from 2013 still involved, great guys and talented footballers. I’d like to think there was a lot of positives during Cian O’Neill’s time there.

“Very hard I’d say for Jack O’Connor coming in last year to get to grips with the whole group and what’s going on with all the restrictions that are there. For any new manager who started last year or starting this year, it’s tough.

“The job is your managing people – players, coaches and backroom team – but you can’t even see them for so many weeks and months. For these new managers they don’t even know their group.

“It’s going to be less daunting if you’re somebody that’s been working with a group for a number of years so you’re not trying to establish all of these brand new relationships. You’re further along in that kind of process, not starting from scratch.”

Despite all the obstacles Ryan is looking forward to monitor both teams now that the season is about to kick into gear.

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The complexion of the Cork and Kildare squads is much changed. From that 2015 game, there has been a group that have moved into retirement this winter in Tommy Moolick, Keith Cribbin, Peter Kelly, Paul Kerrigan and James Loughrey.

ciaran-fitzpatrick-with-paul-kerrigan-and-michael-shields Paul Kerrigan (left) in action for Cork against Kildare in 2015. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“Some of the players have had fabulous inter-county careers,” said Ryan.

“They’ve represented their county and given exceptional service. Those guys are terrific people, the Cork and Kildare ones. It’s just the end of their term and now it leaves some of these younger guys to step in and take over. 

“It’ll be very interesting but I just think it’s going to be a phony war for the next few weeks now. How much have teams done? Regardless of how much you’ve done individually and in a pod, it’s totally different when you’re together as a team and you’re working on your team play and general understanding of what’s gone on.

“It’ll take a while for things to settle down and figure out what teams are going to be contenders and what teams are potential contenders.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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