Driven Kerry find that little bit extra
Kerry 1-15 Cork 1-13: Kerry edged their neighbours and rivals Cork by two points in a thrilling Munster football final in Killarney.
The All-Ireland champions looked like running away with the contest early in the second half but credit a focused Cork side who retaliated impressively in defence of their provincial title.
"Yes it was good to get a win," Kerry manager Pat O'Shea told RTE television on the whistle. "We knew Cork would come down and put it up to us. And it turned out to be a very exciting game.
"We dominated early in the second half but in fairness to Cork they came back superbly. We're thankful we held on in the end. We're just delighted to win back the Munster cup that we relinquished to Cork last year.
"But both teams are still in the All-Ireland," he added. "We'll savour tonight but we'll concentrate on the competition later on."
Kerry were smartly into stride despite having to battle against a strong wind. They starved Cork of possession and their key players hit the ground running.
Darragh O'Se and Declan O'Sullivan were both in fine form early on, the former setting the foundation for lording possession in midfield.
O'Sullivan scored a rapid brace within the opening minutes to leave Kerry 0-3 to 0-1 ahead. But despite their overall dominance they could never pull away from their gallant opponents.
The Cork forwards were initially starved of possession but collectively they were more in tune once sharpshooter James Masters rattled over three scores to level midway through the half.
Whereas repeated diagonal balls were comfortably swallowed by the Kerry defence, the direct approach to 6'8 Michael Cussen soon paid dividends.
The giant full forward repeatedly plucked high ball before turning smartly to register tasty scores. Indeed, two in quick succession saw Cork 0-7 to 0-4 ahead just before the half hour.
But Kerry remained focused and their own giant, Kieran Donaghy, found his range along with Eoin Brosnan to leave two between the sides at the break, 0-9 to 0-7.
Whereas Kerry had dictated pace and direction, Cork steadily gained in confidence but would their narrow lead stand true against the wind in the second half?
Kerry, with the breeze at their backs, opened a five point lead soon after the resumption. Colm 'Gooch' Cooper's goal proved a telling blow and thereafter Graham Canty was dispatched to mark the lively corner forward.
But Cork's resolve stood true and Donnacha O'Connor - who was superb all afternoon - fired 1-2 in a matter of minutes to level the contest for the fifth time.
Mike Frank Russell - another in fine form - kicked his sixth point to edge the Kingdom back in front only for Masters to retaliate and ensure a tense closing spell.
But Kerry found that little bit extra to deny Cork successive titles. While O'Connor saw his goal shot go narrowly wide both Donaghy and substitute Sean O'Connor combined for the decisive scores.
• Laois will play Dublin in the Leinster football final after defeating Wexford by three points (1-13 to 0-13) at Croke Park. But the midlanders did not have it all their own way. They kicked 18 wides in total and Wexford led by four points at the break.
Ciaran Lyng was Wexford's tormentor in chief but Michael John Tierney was instrumental in Laois's recovery. Paul Lawlor, though, scored the all-important goal in the second half which enabled Laois advance.