There was a glut of Championship action on today, with more of the same – this time including us – on tomorrow, but from our perspective the main match of interest was the one that took place this afternoon at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
We’re playing Cork in a fortnight – When? Where? At what time? One of these fine days the GAA will no doubt deign to inform us mere mortals about these trifling details – so it was the Rebels’ performance that was of most interest from our point of view. They’d narrowly beaten Louth last time out but today they were the ones to lose in a game of tight margins … and a highly questionable refereeing call.
Cork only lost by two points and, as well as cursing their own wastefulness in front of the posts, both from frees and open play, the main talking point was the controversial decision by referee David Gough to award Kerry a second half penalty for an infringement that occurred outside the square.
The Meath official invoked the same rule he’d used to award Monaghan a spot-kick late in our National League Round 7 match back in March, where a foul outside the square involved the prevention of a goal-scoring opportunity. The decision then didn’t bother us – as we were already in the final, regardless of the result – but today’s one was hugely important and it turned a contest in which a lacklustre Kerry were under pressure back in their favour.
Geaney was fouled alright – and the way Powter ploughed into him was agricultural in the extreme – but it was still a fair old stretch to deem the infraction one that prevented a goalscoring opportunity. I’ve looked back at it a good few times and with every look the incident appears less like a penalty. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Meath official got that crucial decision badly wrong.
When Clifford dispatched the spot-kick, Cork were four down but they refused to lie down from then to the finish. Kerry were very relieved to come away with an undeserved two-point win after yet another under-par performance. Can they lift it when it really counts? We’ll know soon enough.
While our focus tonight remains on the challenge we face tomorrow, it’s obvious from their display today that the Cork game has the potential to be a tricky one for us. They’re a game side, with plenty of fine footballers and while tactically they too often betrayed their Division Two standing this afternoon, with Kevin Walsh in their backroom team we can expect them to set up against us in a way designed to make life difficult for us.
This, in turn, arguably makes tomorrow even more important for us. If we shoot the lights out against Louth then we’re all but guaranteed to top Group 1 and advance directly to the All-Ireland quarter-final regardless of what happens against Cork. So, as Kevin McStay and his colleagues have been reminding us all year, it’s all about the next test facing us. For us, that’s the one posed by the Wee County at Castlebar tomorrow afternoon.