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Mark Collins: 'These one-off good performances and stuff just isn't good enough'

The experienced Cork player on the county’s bid to end a losing championship streak against Kerry.

Cork footballer Mark Collins.
Cork footballer Mark Collins.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MARK COLLINS IS part of a small group of survivors.

It’s over eight years now, back in the summer of 2012 when Cork last delivered a positive outcome against Kerry in the senior championship arena.

An emerging player back then, he was brought on as a late substitute. Now only himself and another long-serving figure Paul Kerrigan are still around, Ciaran Sheehan’s injury robbing Cork of the other playing contender as they seek to arrest their losing streak next Sunday.

He tries not to regard it as a millstone.

“It’s disappointing for a football county as big as Cork that we haven’t won a Munster title since 2012, but it doesn’t weigh on us in any way going into the next day.

“We’ve a lot of young lads coming through who have absolutely no fear and it’s definitely not something in the back of their minds that Cork haven’t won (against Kerry) since 2012.

“I don’t think we’ll be looking at that going into the next day.”

If there’s a push to use victories like the U20 final in the summer of 2019 as a source of optimism for Cork’s prospects, Collins is keen to place that in proper context.

“It was kind of similar when we first came on the scene. We were very successful underage, U21 and stuff, we’d a very good record against Kerry and we didn’t make that count. Cork’s problem over the last ten years maybe has been a bit of consistency. We’ve always had these one-off good performances and stuff which just isn’t good enough. We haven’t built on them.”

mark-collins-scores-a-goal Mark Collins scores a goal against Kerry in the 2018 Munster final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

He’s getting to the nub of the matter there. Cork have had their moments against Kerry such as the draw in 2015 and the forceful challenge they mounted last year. Away from local fights, there have been a couple of contests with Mayo or the Super 8s games in Croke Park twelve months ago that yielded competitive and in a way admirable displays but nothing upbeat in terms of the hard results.

“It’s something we touched on as a group. We’ve had a lot of good performances against top teams over the last few years but we haven’t won any of the matches. To make that next step. we have to win one of these big games. There’d be no better game to win than a Munster semi-final against Kerry in a knockout match.”

“If it’s a familiar pairing, everything else about this feels different. Collins made the call for personal change early this year, opting not to play club hurling to focus on football and improve his chances of staving off injury.

He captained Castlehaven to reach the Cork premier senior decider, scoring twice in a dramatic penalty shootout semi-final win, but with the plug pulled on the club schedule, they will be waiting until next March for their big day.

“As inter-county players, we were probably in the lucky situation,’ he said.

“It was harder for the club lads below, there was a period where they didn’t know what would be happening.

‘We were lucky that we Cork, we were straight back in on the Tuesday night, meeting the lads and having a bit of craic, preparing for the end of the league, fighting for promotion and the Munster final.

‘One thing you’d be a small bit concerned about it step up to inter-county and going from 60 to 70 minutes. It’s something we’d have talked about over the last week or two and we’re trying to adapt in in-house games.

‘That would be the only worry.”

In terms of the adherence to Covid-19 protocols, he gives huge praise for those who have created the current Cork environment with team doctors Aidan Kelleher and Con Murphy driving that.

“To get the opportunity to play is absolutely brilliant and (we’re) feeling very safe anyway.

“We had (a Covid test) before our first league game. It was very well run. We got it on the Thursday evening and we had a result and everything by lunch-time Friday. So we were delighted and very impressed by the way it was run.

“I think it’s been a mad year anyway. Looking back during the summer there we didn’t think we’d have any football. To be in the situation, to be playing Kerry in a knockout match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November, we would have grabbed someone’s hand off for it back in March, April, May.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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