Cork banish Kingdom to the scenic route
MUNSTER SFC SEMI-FINAL: Cork 0-17 Kerry 0-12:FOR A championship fixture that to the casual observer must appear to take place twice a week, yesterday’s Munster football semi-final between Cork and Kerry had a significant feel to it.It’s three years since Cork beat their neighbours and in the interim they had met on four occasions, so man of the match Donncha O’Connor’s declaration that “the more times you beat Kerry the happier you will be” had a ring of conviction.
Favourites generally don’t do well in the fixture, even though the odds are rarely too radically skewed so it was satisfying for the home side to carry that weight into action and deliver after 70 minutes of fairly prosaic football.
There was an elegiac air to Kerry’s defeat. Two of their totemic figures, Paul Galvin and Kieran Donaghy, were replaced in the second half and the team trailed for all but a few minutes of the match.
It was possible to believe that maybe an era was passing but similar sentiments three years ago after an even more comprehensive defeat for Kerry looked foolish by the time the All-Ireland was presented some weeks later.
Lurking reservations about Cork’s mental resilience when Kerry crank it up meant it would have been damaging for them to squander the winning platform as they had done two years ago.
So the contest was a challenge and the league winners also had to cope with a trading loss at centrefield where Kerry won most of the possession.
In practical terms Cork’s defence did well to shut out their opponents in a first half that saw a few goal chances foiled and their patience in moving the ball around the attack before teasing out an opening was rewarded with some well taken scores, with O’Connor once again showing well with six points, including four from play.
Cork made two changes before the throw-in. Both Fintan Goold and Pearse O’Neill were withdrawn because of injuries just before the start and Ciarán Sheehan and the veteran Nicholas Murphy started. After a few moments at centrefield with Aidan Walsh in the full-forward line, Murphy switched inside and took up duties at full forward.
Having started the sharper looking team, Cork fell into a dip, as Kerry built the more convincing attacks and were hungrier on the breaks around the middle. Good covering and focused support play helped Cork’s defence stand up but there were occasional lapses, which created goal chances that Kerry will rue not converting.
Within a minute Kerry were looking for a penalty after Colm Cooper went down under pressure from Michael Shields but referee David Coldrick correctly decided otherwise. Cork took a 0-3 to 0-1 lead but had to defend.
Sheehan, in his first competitive start since getting injured against Kerry 11 months ago, put in a great block having just boomed a point over minutes previously. Kieran O’Leary was fouled after Graham Canty was caught out by the ball and Cooper equalised.
In the 16th minute Kerry’s first goal chance came. Declan O’Sullivan broke past Canty, opened the defence and passed to Donaghy. He maybe should have taken on the shot but immediately transferred to Cooper whose attempt to squeeze in the goal was blocked by Shields.
The consequent 45 indicated one of the big problems for Kerry. Bryan Sheehan’s absence with injury had deprived them of a place-kicker who only two years ago helped them survive the drawn semi-final in Killarney. In his absence Brendan Kealy tried to emulate Dublin’s shooting goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton but he was wide with two 45s.