Kingdom comeback secures 36th title

 

Kerry: 0-16 Cork 1-9:Hail to The Kingdom. They came to Croke Park, they saw Cork, and they conquered. It wasn’t quite the epic battle that it promised to be but in the end Kerry called on all their experience to beat the hotly-fancied Rebels and claim their 36th All-Ireland football title.

It was the all-Munster showdown that they said Cork would win if they could deliver another big performance like they’d done all summer.

Instead they were slowly worked down by a Kerry team who capped off the remarkable achievement of playing a sixth All-Ireland final is succession with a deserved four-point victory – and fifth title of this decade. In the process they reversed their defeat to Cork back in the Munster championship.

It took a series of superb points from Tommy Walsh and the free-taking of Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper to put Cork away, but truth is Cork couldn’t sustain the effort to topple their Munster rivals. So it leaves them still seeking to add to the six titles, the last being part of the back-to-back success of 1989-1990.

Conditions were practically ideal and in front of a capacity 82,286-crowd the game quickly exploded to life – with Tadhg Kennelly shouldering Nicholas Murphy moments after the throw-in. A statement of intent no doubt.

Cork then opened the scoring on four minutes with a free from Donnacha O’Connor – only for Kennelly to level up with the next move.

There was one late change on the Cork team when Kieran O’Connor stepped in for injured corner-back Ray Carey.

There was little room to breathe at either end, but Cork slowly found some space, first Colm O’Neill and then Patrick Kelly edging them two points clear on 10 minutes. Seconds later O’Neill latched on to a long-range free and thundered to the Kerry net. An awesome goal, and Cork were up 1-3 to 0-1, five points ahead. It was just the start they were after – and looking bold and confident.

It was 13 minutes in before Kerry got their first free, and Cooper duly converted – and quickly followed it with a second free. That seemed to settle the Kerry nerves, bringing them back to within three.

Then the momentum swung Cork’s way again with O’Connor’s second free; only for Tommy Walsh to hit two points in quick succession from play on 20 minutes. It was high-tension stuff, Cork holding on 1-4 to 0-5, but Kerry suddenly looking the more experienced.

Declan O’Sullivan won a close-range free for the Gooch to convert and that brought Kerry back to within one; 1-4 to 0-6.

Kerry then had two sweet chances to draw level but both Kennelly and Galvin hit poor wides – but then Declan O’Sullivan coolly hit the equaliser on 28 minutes.

Cork were struggling to get any possession, particularly with Kerry lording the middle third of the field. Anthony Lynch was then called back for fouling the Gooch, who took full advantage by converting his fourth free to put Kerry ahead for the first time on the half-hour mark.

Kennelly extended the lead, as suddenly Cork looked out of it. Daniel Goulding finally ended their scoring famine with a point on 32 minutes.

There was time for two more Kerry scores before the break when Tomas Ó Sé burst forward for his trademark score and Gooch then hit his fifth free, which cost Lynch a booking. But Cork got one back with a free from Goulding, and so Kerry went into the break two up: 0-11 to 1-6. Still all to play for.

Cork starting the second half with two wides didn’t help their nerves. At the other end, the Gooch converted his sixth free to send Kerry three points clear. Cork looked increasingly unsure of their tactics, their confidence seemingly dripping away as a couple more shots went wide of their target.

Darran O’Sullivan then got his first score after a searing run forward, and Kerry were up by four on 45 minutes.

At last Cork got a sniff at goal again but Goulding’s shot was well saved by Diarmuid Murphy. The best they could salvage was a free from O’Connor on 50 minutes, their opening score of the half. That score raised Cork’s spirits and set Croke Park alight and Goulding hit a cool score from play to close the gap to two. Game alive again.

Goulding’s free then closed the gap to the minimum: Cork 1-9 to Kerry’s 0-13. The heat was on in every sense. Tommy Walsh stepped up again with two points in succession to give Kerry the momentum, the same time as they introduced Kieran Donaghy. Tomas ó Sé followed that with his second point, suggesting Kerry had survived Cork’s storm yet again.

Ten minutes left to play – and try as they did Cork couldn’t quite find a higher gear again. Still four points up, Kerry held possession in key areas whereas Cork struggled. Tommy Griffin was commanding at full back, as was Marc Ó Sé, as was Mike McCarthy in front of him, and there was simply no way through. The frustration grew, but Kerry still couldn’t put them out of sight.

It didn’t matter because Kerry ran down the clock with typical coolness and confidence and there was nothing Cork could do about it. Deserving winners yet again,

KERRY:D Murphy; M Ó Sé , T Griffin, T O’Sullivan; T Ó Sé, M McCarthy, K Young; D Ó Sé, S Scanlon; P Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan, T Kennelly; C Cooper, T Walsh, Darran O’Sullivan. Subs:D Walsh for Kennelly (51 mins), M Quirke for D Ó Sé, K Donaghy for Darran O’Sullivan (both 57), D Moran for Walsh (68), A O’Mahony for Young (69)

CORK: A Quirke; K O’Connor, M Shields, A Lynch; J Miskella, G Canty, N O’Leary; A O’Connor, N Murphy; P Kelly, P O’Neill, P Kerrigan; D Goulding, C O’Neill, D O’Connor. Subs:E Cadogan for K O’Connor (half time), F Gould for Kerrigan (49), D Kavanagh for Lynch (58), J Masters for Goulding (62), M Cussen for A O’Connor (66).

REFEREE:Martin Duffy (Sligo).