By James McMahon
On the first weekend in July of 1979, the then Primate of All Ireland Tomás Ó Fiaich was created a Cardinal, and Troy completed the English/Irish Derby double at the Curragh.
Another notable event that took up a fair few column inches in the press was the ‘Miltown-Malbay Massacre’.
What was that, I hear you ask? Well, it was the day that a rampant Kerry side defeated Clare on a 9-21 to 1-09 scoreline in the Munster SFC semi-final.
The Kingdom then went on to beat Cork 2-14 to 2-04 in the decider. The provincial quest was clearly a procession for the Green and Gold in that year. The Munster Council’s response was to give Mick O’Dwyer’s troops a bye into the final in 1980, where once again the Rebels were dismissed with ease.
Until 1990, Cork and Kerry were kept on opposites sides of the draw. The following year saw the introduction of the open draw. The two ‘heavyweights’ were drawn in the semi-final – a game where Kerry knocked out the then All-Ireland champions.
Twelve months later saw the most famous southern decider in the modern era. Clare captured only their second title – 75 years on from their first – with a stunning 2-10 to 0-12 victory Kerry at the Gaelic Grounds. It prompted a famous line in commentary from RTE’s Marty Morrissey about no cows being milked in the land of the Banner.
Fast forward to 2007 and officials opted for a return to a seeded draw. However, the decision was quickly reversed and up until the 2013 campaign the open system again applied.
Yet, change was again in the air when the Munster Council last September announced that Cork and Kerry would get a bye into the semi-finals for this summer’s renewal.
Also, they would be kept on the opposite sides of the draw. Interestingly, the support of Limerick and Waterford helped bring about this latest change. That said, many in the aforementioned counties, along with officials and players from Clare and Tipperary, were quick to voice their disapproval at the move.
When the power brokers in Munster GAA meet again after the conclusion of this year’s championship, don’t be surprised that the format for 2015 will be top of the agenda.
For now, though, it’s all about the next few months and the prospect of another Cork v Kerry Munster final.
Last year, the Kingdom had to withstand a strong second-half revival from their rivals to claim the title. This classic game of two-halves showed the good and the not so good of what the sides had to offer.
Since then Brian Cuthbert has taken over in Cork, while an injury picked up by Colm Cooper in the All-Ireland club semi-final cruelly ended his season.
The changing landscape also saw the retirement of many notable players from both counties, with Alan O’Connor, Graham Canty, Pearse O'Neill, Paudie Kissane, Noel O'Leary Alan Quirke, Tomás Ó Sé, Eoin Brosnan and Paul Galvin all calling it a day.
Much to admire about the Rebels
Apart from their second half capitulation against Dublin in the league semi-final, Cork enjoyed a good spring and delivered many eye-catching performances. Cuthbert’s arrival as coach, allied with a more direct approach, has clearly benefited a squad where many players got a chance to show their credentials.
Colm O’Neill’s return from a long-term injury, and the impact he made when coming on as a sub during the league, is a positive that could find even greater expression across the summer.
Brian Hurley is another ace in the Rebel pack. For the majority of the league, he proved to be a real handful at full-forward.
Yes, Cork have questions to answer on that Palm Sunday when they failed put a place any meaningful defence against the Dublin surge. Time is a healer, however, and the scars should have dissipated in time for their semi-final date with either Tipperary or Limerick on 21 June.
Tipp’s promotion from Division 4 was characterised by their free-scoring exploits and Peter Creedon’s charges won’t fear meeting Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on 31 May.
The other side of the Munster draw sees Clare play host to Waterford on 7 June. The winner, and I expect it to be the Banner, will face Kerry in the last-four a fortnight later.
Which Kerry will re-emerge?
Like last year, the Kingdom laboured in the early part of the league, before pulling their socks up to ensure their survival in the top flight. That said their last outing saw them comprehensively beaten by Cork in their own back yard. Eamonn Fitzmaurice and co have much to ponder ahead of their expected Munster final appearance.
Last year, they produced their best football in that titanic battle with Dublin. Will they get as far as that juncture this year? Without ‘Gooch’s orchestrations the task is now that bit harder.
On the plus side, James O’Donoghue is a class act in the inside forward line. Alongside him, Stephen O’Brien and Paul Geaney showed well in the league.
Having a fully-fit Kieran Donaghy, Declan O’Sullivan, Darren O’Sullivan and Killian Young to pick from will greatly aid the Kerry cause in the months ahead.
A fool would completely write off their chances but for this summer it looks like the Rebels may just have enough to quell any Kingdom resurgence if that Munster final pairing, as expected, comes to pass on 6 July.
MUNSTER FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES
Quarter-final: Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds
Quarter-final: Clare v Waterford, Cusack Park
Semi-final: Cork v Limerick/Waterford, Páirc Ui Chaoimh
Semi-Final Clare/Waterford v Kerry, Cusack Park or Fraher Field
Final – Live on RTE and GAAGo
LIVE GAA: Watch live Television coverage of the Ulster SFC Derry v Donegal, throw-in 2pm (Sunday 25 May, RTÉ Two, RTÉ.ie and GAAGo, 1.30 pm).
Listen to live updates of all of Sunday's Championship action including Ulster SFC Tyrone v Down (Sunday 25 May, RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie, 2pm).