Kerry through to Munster final but they fail to convince in uninspiring win over Cork

Rebels produced their best 70-minute performance of the year to run an off-form Kingdom close in Killarney

Munster SFC semi-final: Kerry 0-18 Cork 1-12

On the hottest, driest day to visit Killarney all year, Cork failed to rain on Kerry’s parade as the defending Munster champions won their way to next month’s provincial final after a fairly unconvincing three-point win.

No one expected Cork to win, and few expected them to get within a kick of the ball either, but the Rebels managed to run an off-form Kerry close.

Not that this was a perfect performance from Cork, far from it, while David and Paudie Clifford played like mere mortals for the Kingdom, but it all mashed up to produce an engaging contest that few in the 17,568 crowd could have really hoped for.

While most would have expected a somewhat bigger margin of victory for the Kingdom, Cork brought their best performance of the year to a sun-drenched Fitzgerald Stadium and kept the home side honest and under pressure for the bones of an hour.


Thereafter, Kerry found a little more within themselves, in particular the ability to pick off some hard-earned scores, and saw out a decent contest to win by three.

That it took the defending champions 50 minutes to get out in front of a Cork team that started brilliantly but seemed to leave most of their energy and ideas behind them after the first quarter will give Kerry manager Jack O’Connor food for thought between here and the Munster final in a fortnight.

That Cork started so well but then faded away will occupy John Cleary’s thoughts between here and the All-Ireland series in mid-May

The Rebels had raced into a 1-6 to 0-5 lead, helped by Paul Walsh’s goal in the fifth minute and Paudie Clifford’s goal miss in the sixth minute, but beyond the 20th minute it was the Cork of old – plenty of perspiration but light on inspiration.

Cork took the lead in the first minute through Conor Corbett and then Walsh struck for the game’s only goal after neat approach play from Brian O’Driscoll and Ian Maguire.

Points from Dara Moynihan, Cillian Burke (on his Championship debut) and Tom O’Sullivan had the scores level, 1-1 to 0-4, after 10 minutes before livewire Brian Hurley converted three points in a five-minute spell to put Cork in control again.

By the 18th minute Cork were 1-6 to 0-5 ahead, but they would only manage another half dozen points in the remaining 57 minutes. A pair of points each from Sean O’Shea and David Clifford – the latter having a very off day by his standards – sheared Cork’s lead to just one at the interval, 1-7 to 0-9.

Hurley found the range with a couple of frees in the third quarter but Kerry were starting to find a little more rhythm and energy, and Moynihan, O’Shea and Tom O’Sullivan converted before David Clifford’s point in the 50th minute put the Kingdom ahead for the first time.

Thereafter it all played out as expected. Though Cork were still within a point by the 57th minute.

Graham O’Sullivan, Sean O’Shea and Tom O’Sullivan iced a point apiece for Kerry with only Hurley really carrying the same scoring threat for the Rebels.

Cork needed a second goal to get back into it, but it never really looked like coming. They will take plenty of heart from their best 70 minutes of the season and have some time now to fine-tune themselves for the All-Ireland series.

Kerry move on to a Munster final in a fortnight against Clare where improvement will be expected, though not necessarily required.

Kerry: Shane Ryan; Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan (0-3); Graham O’Sullivan (0-1), Gavin White, Seán O’Brien; Diarmuid O’Connor, Joe O’Connor; Adrian Spillane, Paudie Clifford, Cillian Burke (0-1); David Clifford (0-4 one free), Seán O’Shea (0-6, three frees), Dara Moynihan (0-2). Subs: Paul Geaney (0-1) for Burke (h-t), Stephen O’Brien for A Spillane (48), Mike Breen for S O’Brien (62), Tony Brosnan for D Moynihan (64), Barry Dan O’Sullivan for J O’Connor (71).

Cork: Christopher Kelly; Kevin Flahive, Daniel O’Mahony, Maurice Shanley; Luke Fahy, Tommy Walsh, Matty Taylor (0-1); Ian Maguire, Colm O’Callaghan; Paul Walsh (1-0), Seán Powter, Brian O’Driscoll; Chris Óg Jones (0-1), Conor Corbett (0-2, one mark), Brian Hurley (0-8, four frees). Subs: Sean Meehan for M Shanley (35+1 mins), Ruairí Deane for S Powter (45), Steven Sherlock for Jones (53), Mark Cronin for P Walsh (58), Kevin O’Donovan for T Walsh (inj, 60).

Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).