Kerry hoping for stress-free encounter with Cork in Munster final

Ronan McCarthy’s underdogs must win possession to have any chance of causing upset

Kerry manager Peter Keane is without James O’Donoghue for the Munster final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Kerry manager Peter Keane is without James O’Donoghue for the Munster final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Munster football final: Cork v Kerry, Saturday, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7pm (RTÉ)

The faintest question mark hangs over a Munster final that had been declared a foregone conclusion. Kerry are keeping it low key but the sirens have been sounding in the Kingdom throughout a year when Dublin can set themselves apart in Gaelic football history.

Kerry’s vaunted attack thrived in patches against Clare but James O’Donoghue’s injury-plagued lot continues as he is forced to miss this match: in comes Dara Moynihan to fill the full-forward line along with Paul Geaney and David Clifford. Limiting the punishment this trio inflicts is one of many big tasks facing Cork manager Ronan McCarthy.

A thumping 3-18 to 0-6 win over Limerick gave Cork a timely surge in confidence and reports of good showings in challenge games, along with the zero-level expectations, will serve to heighten Kerry paranoia as they head into Cork city this afternoon.

Running game

Stephen O’Brien’s direct running game has been a prominent feature of Kerry’s attack under Peter Keane while Tommy Walsh, used as ball-winning full-forward in the league, gives an alternative from the bench. It’s hard to see how Cork can live with Kerry here. Sean Powter, their stand-out player from recent seasons, remains a long-term injury and three players selected to start this final – centre-back Tom Clancy and half-forwards Eoghan McSweeney and John O’Rourke have been forced out with injuries picked up at training on Tuesday night.

Cork have not beaten Kerry in Munster since 2012 and their rapid decline as a national force since that time has been a source of alarm: 11 and 17 point defeats in this fixture over the past two years are symptomatic. Ruairi Deane’s forward thrust has given the Rebel attack a focal point while veteran Paul Kerrigan and Mark Collins have the potential to trouble Kerry’s defenders – if they can draw them into isolated situations. David Moran and Jack Barry start at midfield for Kerry: generating their share of primary possession is a must for Cork if they are to cause what would be a shock here.

Kerry supporters will hope for an enjoyable and stress-free evening out – and some clear signs that their young team is shaping into the kind of block over which their city rivals might just stumble.

Last Meeting: June 23rd, 2018, Munster final – Kerry 3-18 Cork 2-4.

Just the Ticket: Stand €35. Adult terrace €25. Adult premium €90. Juvenile terrace €5

Odds: Cork 11/2, Kerry 1/7, Draw 14/1

Verdict: Kerry.

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