Watching the footage from the Grand Parade last weekend, of lawless adolescents rampaging with impunity down one of the city’s main thoroughfares, it provided an almost welcome respite from watching Tipperary’s hurlers and footballers do similar through the heart of Cork’s respective defences. All in all, you’d have to say that Covid-19 has been a brilliant distraction from all the doom and gloom surrounding these winter championships.
As the rest of the nation basked in the reflective glow of the underdog last Sunday, such amity was not as forthcoming on Leeside. I mean, these giant-killing stories are great so long as you’re not playing the part of the giant. What gave us the right to assume the role of Goliath anyway when David’s (David Power, that is) sling was always likely to outmatch anything in our armoury. Colm O’Rourke said after the game that not many people would have heard of the former All-Star, Michael Quinlivan. Had Ronan McCarthy?
Not even the scenes from Ulster, where Cavan folk delivered their greatest result since the Reilly’s saved all that money shopping at Aldi, could remedy the misery in Cork. GAA-induced exasperation has become just another way of life down here, where the new normal is much the same as the old normal. Just the pitch is in better nick.
At least the hurler’s defeat was somewhat expected. The footballers were home and hosed, apparently. When Kerry faltered two weeks ago, it was assumed that Munster’s two-horse race had been reduced to a procession, something more akin to show-jumping. Gallingly however, Cork incurred enough penalties to ensure that a once-in-a-generation opportunity was spurned. 1889 was the last time that the Cork footballers had beaten Kerry and failed to win the Munster Championship. Tipp were the fly in the ointment back then too, by the way.
As we all know by now, history has eerily repeated itself this year, with the four provincial winners aping that of 100 years ago. In honour of their 1920 predecessors, Tipperary donned green and white jerseys which had been worn up until 1925. Many also sported dashing moustaches, which would have been en vogue at the time while Conor Sweeney performed his own interpretation of the Burning of Cork. Regrettably, the Rebels also managed to get in on the commemorative act, producing an uncanny imitation of their own luckless forebearers.
What’s that Alanis Morrissette said about the poor lad that won the lottery and died the next day? Isn’t it ironic? That’s one word for it, sure. Although irony would suggest a tinge of humour attached to the unexpected result in question. The only laughter detected around the county last Sunday would have had a discernible Kerry lilt. Was it even all that unexpected? Even this young Cork team, comprising a whole host of newcomers, can’t seem to unburden themselves from the saddling weight of our footballing heritage and its infuriating propensity to make an absolute hames of seemingly infallible situations. Just one more massive let-down to add to the list then. Isn’t it emblematic, don’t you think?
The bonus number came up for Cork two weeks ago, when Luke Connolly’s Hail Mary high above the clouds dropped lovingly into Mark Keane’s warm embrace. Collecting the winnings was meant to be the easy part. However, to say that Tipperary pick-pocketed the winning ticket from our possession would be grossly unfair to both the opposition and to the delicate act of larceny itself. We handed it to them, no questions asked. So fair play to them, nobody can say it wasn’t deserved.
The Cork footballers haven’t won a Munster Championship now since 2012 and in the ensuing years, the devout apostles of Cork football have been to hell and back. To Longford too. Eight years without a provincial crown is small change considering the momentous weekend just gone, but then again, aren’t all famines relative? If we hadn’t seen such riches, we could live with being poor. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Double was still on the cards, theoretically speaking at least. Now, thirty years on from Tomkins and Mulcahy and we can’t even be considered the dual standard-bearers in our own province. Jesus, even the Kerry hurlers are heading for Croke Park!
The Kerry game was meant to be a catharsis, a purgation of the countless drubbings that have implanted themselves on the Rebel psyche over the past number of years. Can it still be considered so? Back in 2004, Michael Jacob scored a last-gasp goal in the Leinster hurling semi-final to register Wexford’s first victory over Kilkenny since 1997, a moment that is still regarded as one of the sweetest in the Slaneysiders rich tapestry. Had Wexford lost the Leinster final to an unfancied Offaly that year (which they so nearly did), how would that golden nugget of history be remembered?
The explosion of ecstasy that accompanied Keane’s last-second goal two weeks ago can never be taken away of course, but last Sunday’s self-flagellation ensured that, unlike Tadgh Murphy in ’83, it can never enter the pantheon of Cork’s great sporting moments. Instead, in years to come, it will be viewed as merely the heroic precursor to yet another Cork footballing meltdown.
To most Cork supporters, at least. Keith Ricken mentioned last week how many Cork people are content just to see Kerry beaten. He has a point, to be fair. The Germans, I believe, have a word for the pleasure derived by Cork people from the misfortune of their Kerry neighbours. It’s called Ó’Sé-denfreude (sorry Tomás). After last weekend, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got.