We hold this truth to be self-evident, that Cork are Cork, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of....Corkness.
The hurlers drenched their Championship with that quality last month, and now their footballers head to Killarney aiming to do the same.
The Cork footballers have spent the last couple of years floundering about, hoping that the latest disappointment represents rock bottom, under the principle that the lowest and most dejected thing in fortune has no fear. 2017 is not quite developing into the disaster predicted: mid-table mediocrity in Division 2 stabled the ship, while they have scraped into a Munster final, courtesy of one-point wins over Waterford and Tipperary.
Most galling of all for the Cork footballers, however, has been the criticism they've been taking from erstwhile stars of their greatest rivals. Colm Cooper dedicated his early columns in the Irish Examiner to Cork, and while stopping short of a Brolly-style obituary, he didn't mince his words:
Cork football is as close, certainly that I can remember, to rock bottom as it’s been in decades. I suggested in my first Irish Examiner column they either don’t have confidence in what they are doing or where they are going. The near-debacle in Waterford proved as much. I still don’t feel they have created a game-plan they are settled with....
...I went through the Cork squad this week. There are nine or 10 players with over five years inter-county experience knocking around the squad. That’s long enough for them to be grabbing this thing by the throat. After that number of campaigns, you should have enough about you to be calling fellas out, to be setting higher standards.
Not looking for someone else to do it for everyone.After that number of campaigns, you should have enough about you to be calling fellas out, to be setting higher standards. Not looking for someone else to do it for everyone.
Equally scathing in their criticism was Marc O'Sé, while admitting they have the talent, "it just doesn’t seem as if there’s any leadership coming at all". His brother Tomás, who plays his club football in Cork, also questioned the leadership of the group, evoking an infamous Babs Keating criticism: "They look like a team that's like a herd of sheep going into a field for the first time and cutting loose around the place".
Jim Gavin has made the issue of the number of Kerrymen in the media an issue of late, but this was flagged by Paul Kerrigan after the escape against Tipperary:
Yeah, they kind of have a monopoly on the sportswriting and on telly, like! It suits them to have a cut off us all the time.
Ahead of Sunday's Munster final, Balls spoke to an, er, Kerry legend working in the media: Dara Ó Cinnéide. When asked if Kerrigan makes a fair point, he wholeheartedly agreed:
Absolutely, I'd be disingenuous and lying to you if I said otherwise. A lot of the Kerry players I would have played with, my own contemporaries, are involved in the media, including myself. There is a prevalence of ex-Kerry players - green and gold-coloured opinions - feeding into mainstream media.
It's up to other people to decide if it's healthy. I like to think that we are being asked our opinion because it is informed. That is not to say that the opinion of someone who hasn't won an All-Ireland medal isn't valid. We do obsess about football in Kerry, but I'm sure to no greater extent than they do elsewhere. Mayo, for example. Nobody obsesses about football more than those in Mayo.
What Paul Kerrigan said is on the money. I have no problem with what he had to say there. He is seeing it, he is listening to it, and Kerry have a very visible presence in the media today.
Ó Cinnéide has empathy for Kerrigan and the rest of the Cork players: he has been in a similar situation before. He was playing with Kerry during their 'Munster famine' era in the early nineties, in which they went four years without winning the title, and missed out on the final altogether in 1993 and 1994. It did end, in 1996 with a three-point win over Cork in the Munster final.
We were listening to that being said about us at that time. It was very hurtful. I'm sure the Cork players have their own filters for it, but it is very offensive. To be told that the team you play on lacks leadership is not a nice thing to hear or to see written. And I'm sure these lads are striving to break this dominance that Kerry have over them, like we were to break Cork's rule back in 1996.
And I'm sure it's an incentive for them. By God, I enjoyed it that bit more in 1996 when we finally did make that breakthrough. Proving the doubters wrong is a primal motivation, and it's there for Cork now. They have a lot of people from Kerry telling them they lack leadership, and lack bottle, and they are very hurtful things.
Regardless of what you say about Cork, or footballers from any other county, they are intelligent footballers who arrive to play a game on a Sunday. They have two arms, two legs, and I'm sure they are sprinting just as hard in training as Kerry are.
Just like we were in 1996.
So what with all these Kerry legends giving Cork ammunition for Sunday, would Ó Cinnéide prefer if Cork were not written off so regularly?
You have to be true to the evidence available to you. And the only evidence we have are the games we are seeing on Sunday. And it's a very easy thing to do, to fall into the trap of saying, 'well, they were shite the last day, so they are shite generally'.
Even Tomás O'Sé, who plays football in Cork, so knows what's going on, is saying 'these lads are good footballers, but there's just something amiss'. And what if someday, that something amiss falls into place?
Two years ago, Cork's form coming into the Munster final was as patchy as it is now, and they should have beaten Kerry. So there's a perception out there that Kerry people are being cute...well we aren't stupid either.
History shows us that Cork will always be up for the game against Kerry. Even the worst Cork....they had a really bad run of form in 2004/2005 when I was still playing, and they still came to Killarney, expecting.
They do enjoy coming to Killarney, and there are so many motivations. 'We haven't beaten Kerry in 22 years in Killarney': that's a huge thing, and it's going to happen eventually. The disparaging comments by Kerry people, too.
They are well entitled to [an outpouring of joy if they win] as they are putting up with an awful lot of shite at the moment. As a Kerryman, I'm hoping the opposite, and I hope Kerry beat them.
For all his empathy, Ó Cinnéide is not going to lose that identity.
He may have reason to fear, though, as neither will Cork lose theirs.