Kerry take major step towards safety
Cooper returns as Kingdom see off under-strength Cork
Kerry's Colm Cooper tries to evade the challenge of Cork’s Noel O'Leary during the Division One clash at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
It was never going to be a classic. Kerry were desperate for a brace of League points as they were tottering on the edge of the relegation abyss, Cork were understrength and their need was not that great, though suddenly their final outing against Mayo assumes greater significance. Now that game could either see them in the semi-final or embroiled in a relegation battle themselves.
Kerry while never playing with any great fluency had too much in the tank for Cork, as they tried desperately in the opening half, to prise open a Cork defence of thirteen players behind the ball, in front of 6230 frozen and perplexed spectators at the Austin Stack Park Tralee. In fact Kerry were only able to open up and play creative attacking football in the final 20 minutes when Colm Cooper and Paul Galvin were introduced and once Kerry moved 0-11 to 0-5 clear with less than ten minutes to go, the home fans breathed a huge sigh of relief. At least now Kerry’s trip to Tyrone will mean something.
It was it was an ugly contest that did nothing to calm to purists as Cork were totally negative and the natural flair one associates with Kerry football is now consigned to the past, because it is not good enough to win, in the modern era of swarming and funnelling bodies behind the ball.
Kerry had success stories in new fullback Mark Griffin who was superb, Johnny Buckley whose stock is rising in every outing and the guile of Declan O'Sullivan also gave Kerry a decided edge and reminder that come Championship time, and it might be foolhardy to write off Kerry just yet.
Kerry had the lion share of possession in the opening half thanks to the midfield dominance of Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley but they failed to convert possession into scores. Cork, who lined out without Graham Canty, had the wind in the opening half but trailed 0-4 to 0-3 at the interval. Johnny Buckley was Kerry; s scorers in chief in the opening period, kicking three frees, while Anthony Maher kicked the Kingdom's solitary point from play, in the 31st minute.
Cork on the other hand, kicked all three points from play, through Andrew O'Sullivan, Fintan Goold, and Aidan Walsh, but Kerry must have been confident, with the wind to help them in the second period.
Two early Buckley frees saw Kerry move 0-6 to 0-4 clear and then Kieran O'Leary became the first Kerry forward to score, when he pointed in the 47th minute but he was promptly replaced by the Gooch.
Kerry then took over playing keep ball and points from Buckley, Galvin and Kieran Donaghy; ensured Kerry's second brace of league points and now all depends on the final game, away to Tyrone.
Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice was happy to have gotten the win and felt it was mission accomplishment "Yeah, two points on board and the big thing for us was that the last league game was going to be relevant and that we're going up to Omagh with a chance still to stay up. I suppose that bit of desperation we had to win the game today probably told that bit more than Cork. Cork can still make a league semi-final if they win their last game which is at home so that was probably a factor.
Delighted we're still battling there and still have a chance to stay up."
The Kerry boss was pleased that his gamble in picking rookie fullback Mark Griffin worked a treat "He played very well. I'm delighted for Mark, He's a good lad, he's a fullback and he likes playing fullback, he wants to be there. He played v well for U21s last year, I trust him in there and he attacks the ball. He got a big opportunity today and certainly took it."
So was the result more important than the performance to Kerry today "It was! In earlier games we felt if we got performances the results would take care of themselves but today was just about getting a result whatever way we could. In fairness Cork were like what we were earlier on with injuries, down a lot of bodies...Colm O'Neill and Eoin Cadogan would have been big losses to them today and Graham Canty not starting either. But they didn't have the same desperation for points that we did. It was a day just to get two points.
Gooch back…great and we're finally at a stage where we've a full deck to choose from. After being beaten against Donegal every game left was a championship game for us and going up to Omagh is the same for us to stay in Division One next year."
Conor Counihan looked slightly deflated ""I don't what the maths is at the minute but I'd imagine there's a potential semi-final or relegation as well, we've left our selves a little bit to do."
He was not happy with some of his players ""Yeah, I wouldn't have been pleased to be honest about it. You know, I think we made a lot of silly mistakes on the ball and I think we didn't work hard enough and that's disappointing. Look, that's what you get, you get 70 minutes to do it and if you don't do it there isn't much point crying about it afterwards. Fellas will, I hope, reflect on it themselves, and be disappointed. Some individuals acquitted themselves well but there weren't many on the day." Reflected a rueful Cork manager.