Diary of a Cork football fan: Part 11
Due to Cork’s lack of games this year and my own laziness in missing a deadline after the Munster final, you haven’t heard from me in a while. However, as a certain bearded politician said about a certain organisation, I haven’t gone away you know.
After a frustrating lack of championship football for Cork it was a relief to be back on the road again and heading to the sacred place, Croke Park. A ticket crisis emerged when I realised I had totally forgotten to bring my print-out ticket with me when I was already well on the road. After being dropped off near enough to Croke Park, I made a slightly panicked trek towards the Gresham where I was meeting a buddy and hoping to print off the ticket again.
Thankfully I was able to do so, crisis averted. However, in the process I discovered something as hysterically funny as it was bizarre. The GAA website is blocked in the Gresham because it might contain “content unsuitable for young persons”. Yes, apparently the website of Ireland’s premier sporting organisation is more harmful to the innocence of our youth as internet pornography, under-age drinking and over-exposure to Jedward. Isn’t it great that we have a net-nanny to protect our vulnerable, impressionable young people from the sight of men in tight shorts and the possibility of Joe Brolly? Oh no, none of that sort of thing for our children.
After recovering from the stitches in my stomach at the idea that the GAA is considered a threat to the morality and innocence of the youth of Ireland, we walked up towards Croker, getting soaked in the process by a heavy shower. A group of us met up in the restaurant in the Cusack stand where we had a bit of grub and engaged in some pre-match analysis, the minor match between Kerry and Roscommon providing the backdrop on the screen in front of us.
We went to our seats about 20 minutes before throw in. There was a respectable crowd of just over 56,000 at the two games, but as per usual the Cork support was paltry. During the match any Kildare score was met with a deafening roar, the Cork roar was much less audible. It is what it is I suppose, there is no point in complaining.
As for the match itself, the margin of victory was surprising even if the victory itself was not unexpected. Aided by a stroke of luck with the first goal, we went on to get a second and at 2-5 to 0-3 after 20 minutes, the match seemed over as a contest. The next 15 minutes were frustrating however as Kildare got themselves back into it. I had little doubt that Cork would push on in the second half, but the nature in which they did impressed me.
In truth Cork were superb in the second half. Everyone chipped in, it was a massive effort. To be able to bring on the likes of Paddy Kelly (who came on in the first half), Daniel Goulding and Pearse O’ Neill just goes to show how spoilt we are for choice. There is a real buzz about this team this year and their hunger is insatiable after last year’s disappointment.
When the whistle blew and the 13 point winning margin was confirmed (unluckily for Kildare), there was a sense of elation among our small but dedicated support. It is hard to put into words my devastation after last year’s exit and it was great to see Cork banish the ghost from that occasion. This team are an exceptional bunch of lads, I’ve long gone beyond hoping they’ll get the credit they deserve from the Cork public but it’s an honour to go on the road supporting them.
We stayed for the second semi to see who we’d play and also because Kerry and Donegal did promise to be fascinating. Could Donegal frustrate Kerry? Or would Kerry punch a hole through the Donegal system? Those of you who read my championship preview will know that the way the Ulster champions played last year made me foam at the mouth. The Down match converted me somewhat as it did seem they have made some effort to incorporate more attacking play into their system. You knew they’d revert to type today though and after establishing an early lead, they did somewhat. Crucially, Kerry failed to lead at any stage in the match and despite a late burst, were ultimately undone.
By the end of the match I had gone for shelter standing in the wheelchair area of the Cusack and noticed a bit of a ruckus between a couple of Kerry supporters and a Donegal fan who committed the 'heinous' crime of cheering when Donegal had gone six points clear. Okay he may have been a bit exuberant and I didn’t see what had gone on in that corner for the first 60 minutes but the reaction seemed OTT to me.
These Kerry supporters were middle aged and older men and women but their childishness was unbelievable. I observed similar behaviour on both sides it must be said during the Cork versus Dublin semi-final two years ago. Why do you always get some eejit in the crowd who will try to spoil it for the rest of us by looking to get stuck in? Passion is one thing, playful slagging is another thing but acting the complete gom is another.
Anyway, Donegal it is then. They will be a tough nut to crack, but I have every faith in our lads to do the business. Now if you excuse me, I’m off to take a sneaky peek at the GAA website, because my soul has gone way beyond the point of salvation.