AFL evangelist comes home to make his people believe again 2 weeks ago

AFL evangelist comes home to make his people believe again

How in good God's name could you make sense of that?

Sport is riveting, it is wonderful and it is also cruel, so, so cruel. Just as they were setting their sights on a Munster final against Tipperary, Cork came from the blindside and they left Kerry on their knees. Down, out and disconsolate.

Mark Keane, that AFL export who is only home a couple of weeks, marked his return with one of the most shuddering, time-stopping moments Gaelic football has seen.

Just like Tadhg Murphy's goal in '83, Seamus Darby's in '82, Kerry were sucker-punched in the cold as everything around them went to fuzz. A high, handsome skyscraper from the phenomenal Luke Connolly found its way to the Mitchelstown club man, who'd outfoxed Tommy Walsh to catch it, and then time stood still.

The Kerry players looked around with the expressions of lads who'd been robbed in cold day-light. Beneath his mask, Peter Keane wore a thousand yard stare, a stare that could have brought him back to his home town of Cahirciveen. It wasn't a time for words.

Keane's show of skill and composure, in the midst of such madness, was incredible as he dropped the ball onto his boot to end it. Like an evangelist sent home to make his people believe again, Keane will be worshipped for years.

Kerry will feel aggrieved but as the dust settles, the most painful realisation of all will be that they could have avoided this had they played better or indeed, set up better. Peter Keane's team, unbelievably, set up to contain against a Cork team that they absolutely destroyed last year.

They succeeded in doing so, holding Cork to just four points from play in ninety minutes of football but in the process, they blunted their sharpest weapon - their lethal attackers.

The introduction of Luke Connolly was the real turning point of this game with the Nemo Rangers club-man exhibiting some of the finest dead-ball and indeed live-ball strikes imaginable, given the conditions.

Connolly scored two rakers of frees in the extra-time to keep Cork alive, and then Keane was their beating heart. For Kerry, very few players could say they hit the heights apart from the brilliant Killian Spillane.

All around the county of Cork, they jumped up and down like they thought they never would again. In Kerry, it would have been more like a funeral. Mark Keane meanwhile, will never have to kick a ball again because his hero status is already secure.