So it’s not all bad news from that rain-sodden land to the north, then. Sure, the weather might still be pretty crap – it does, on the face of it, look like we picked a good fortnight to absent ourselves from the jurisdiction – but a day on which Kerry get beaten in the championship must always count as a good day in Ireland. Well, it does in my book anyway. It makes for an even better day when, in the game in question, the Kerrymen lose an eight-point half-time lead, fail to take advantage of being a man up early in the second half, then completely lose the plot by getting two of their own men red carded and finally end up getting whipped by five points.
My, my – that’s two finals on the spin where the Kerrymen have squandered a large lead while falling to unexpected defeat. Indeed, today’s loss bears an uncanny resemblance to the league final loss to Derry at the end of April: in that one they led by seven only to lose by four, today they were eight up and lost by five. Could this perhaps mean that another, and very different, three-in-a-row could be in the offing for the Green and Gold dish ear?
Today’s turnaround was a full thirteen points, which is large for a generic championship encounter but is positively gigantic when the gents being turned around are those from the Kingdom. I can’t honestly recall a previous championship match where they had another county by the balls to the same degree and then proceeded to lose so badly. They can and do lose but this usually happens when they trail from pillar to post – it’s a rare event indeed where they trot in at half-time in complete control of proceedings only to make an utter hames of closing the deal in the second half.
Before the gloating gets out of hand – I’m trying to keep myself in check, really I am – it’s worth bearing in mind that we’ve been here before. Back in 2006, in fact, where Kerry were truly piss-poor in losing to Cork in the Munster final replay but they still ended up … well, we know only too well where they (and us) ended up that year.
In this current All-Ireland structure that we’re saddled with, the day Kerry lose in Munster is, however, no longer one of unbridled joy, one where everyone else can start to relax and dare to dream their own humble dreams of September glory. Instead, the joy – and joy there sure is, make no mistake – is tinged with a sense of foreboding. The monster might be down but until such time as the stake has been rammed into his heart, he’s planked six feet under and has his grave covered over in concrete, he’s still there, still in the game, still plotting his fiendish revenge.
With Marc O Se (how the hell did that abrasive customer manage to get as far as today without being sent off in a big game, by the way?) now added to the longish list of absentees for the next day, the good ship Kerry looks like it’s starting to list a bit but we know from previous experience that, in Iain Dowie’s immortal words, their bouncebackability is pretty damn impressive. In 2006, of course, the greasy paws of whoever performed the qualifier draw did them an enormous favour, in the guise of Longford and in Fitzgerald Stadium too. This year, I’ll be on my knees in front of the telly as the draw is made, muttering fervent novenas for the hoors to pull an absolute pig from the hat: someone like Tyrone, away. We live in hope.
If they do surmount the additional hurdle that’s now been placed between them and the All-Ireland series (the indignity of it – Kerry having to scrap for a place in the last eight!), the Kingdom’s loss today also means that, unlike last year, they’ll face one of the provincial champions in the quarter-finals. Someone, perhaps, like Dublin. Or Armagh. Or maybe even us.
The thought of squaring up to the Green and Gold at the business end of the championship is never going to be an appealing one (look at duh jursey lads!) but I’d far sooner face the fuckers in the quarters than in the semis, which, had we both won our respective provincial championships, we’d’ve been streamed to do. I’m sure the likes of Armagh or the Dubs would feel the same way too.
But I’m in danger of losing the run of myself again. The only match that matters to us at this point in time is the one that starts at 2pm in McHale Park next Sunday (by which time my hols will, of course, be over: you’ll easily recognise me there – I’ll be grumpy-looking tanned individual). Win it and we’re in the last eight, guaranteed at least one big day out at HQ and knowing that the two previous times we won Connacht under the new structure, we made it all the way to the final. Lose it and we’re in the same boat that the Kerrymen bemusedly find themselves tonight but, unlike those Southern titans, we’re unlikely to view a provincial final loss as a temporary setback on the road to championship glory. Our track record in the qualifiers speaks for itself in this regard. In other words, we need to win on Sunday to keep our championship season properly alive.
In the meantime, however, I need to go back on holidays though I’ll be returning to duty more frequently in the coming week as the build-up to Sunday’s showdown continues.