Kerry see off Cork by 12 points to take home McGrath Cup

Kingdom win their sixth McGrath Cup crown having not entered a team in 2020

Kerry’s Sean O’Shea lift’s the McGrath Cup. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Kerry’s Sean O’Shea lift’s the McGrath Cup. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Kerry 2-17 Cork 0-11

Kerry have been crowned McGrath Cup winners thanks to a comfortable 12-point victory over fierce rivals Cork on Saturday afternoon, played in front of a sold-out Fitzgerald Stadium crowd.

In typical Kerry-Cork fashion, the game got off to a flying start and it took a brave low save from Shane Murphy to deny Cork’s Colm O’Callaghan the opening goal after just two minutes.

By the first water break, Kerry were five points ahead - 1-4 to 0-2 - with the points coming from Paul Geaney, Sean O’Shea, Killian Spillane, and Paudie Clifford. Cork, in response, saw efforts from Brian Hurley (free), and Mark Cronin raise the white flag.

The sucker punch for Cork came after just five minutes when Tom O’Sullivan passed into the back of the net after the Dingle cornerback found himself in a one-on-one position with Cork goalkeeper Micheál Martin.

The Kingdom could have, and should have, doubled their goal scoring tally three minutes later, but Paul Geaney could only watch on as his low shot across the goal hit the far post and went wide.

Kerry - who didn’t enter the McGrath Cup in 2020 due to a team holiday, and last played in and won the pre-season competition back in 2017 - named eight of the 15 that started last September’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tyrone.

Jack O’Connor made two changes to the starting team that defeated Tipperary in the semi-final with Gavin White coming back in for Gavin Crowley and Tony Brosnan replacing Dara Roche, bringing the number of Dr Crokes players in the Kerry line-up to four.

With Covid and Government restrictions having denied the majority of Cork and Kerry supporters the opportunity to see their team since March of 2020, the maximum capacity of 5,000 was reached Friday.

After restrictions were lifted late on Friday, Munster GAA and Kerry GAA made an announcement that an extra 3,000 tickets were to go on sale, with the fixture deemed an 8,000 sell-out ahead of the 2pm throw-in.

Cork added further points after the break with Hurley and McGuire cancelling out an early second quarter effort from Killian Spillane, his second of the afternoon.

Cork’s mini revival was made all that more difficult with the Rebels temporarily reduced to 14 after Kevin O’Donovan was given a black card in the 24th minute. However, Brian Hurley narrowed the deficit to three points after the next Cork attack, slotting over an attempt on goal.

That was to be Cork’s last score of the opening 35 minutes as Kerry opened up a 10-point advantage by half-time - 2-9 to 0-5. Kerry’s second goal came in the 33rd minute when the impressive Geaney linked up well with Micheál Burns before finding the back of the net from close range.

After the restart, Kerry extended their lead to 12 points by the end of the third quarter with Brosnan, O’Shea, Paudie Clifford, Jack Savage, David Clifford (2) pointing for O’Connor’s charges. Keith Ricken’s side kept the scoreboard ticking over with points from Hurley (2), and Cronin coming before the second half water break.

Kerry maintained their 12-point advantage until the final whistle to secure their sixth McGrath Cup title.

It’s early pre-season days, but Jack O’Connor’s stamp can already be seen on this Kerry side, a hungrier, more efficient young team that will relish the opportunity to get their League campaign underway away to Kildare next Sunday. Cork face a difficult task of having to travel to Dr Hyde Park to take on Roscommon in their Division 2 opener.

Kerry: Shane Murphy; Dan O’Donoghue, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan (1-0); Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; Sean O’Shea (capt.) (0-2, two frees), Adrian Spillane; Micheál Burns, Paudie Clifford (0-2), Stephen O’Brien; Tony Brosnan (0-3, three frees), Paul Geaney (1-4, one mark), Killian Spillane (0-2).

Subs: Jack Savage (0-2) for O’Brien (6 mins, injured), Gavin Crowley for Paul Murphy, Brian Ó Beaglaoich for O’Donoghue (both half-time), Greg Horan for Adrian Spillane, David Clifford (0-2) for Brosnan (both 46 mins), for White (50 mins), Dylan Casey for Crowley, Paul O’Shea for Paudie Clifford (56 mins), Cian Gammell for O’Sullivan, Dara Roche for Killian Spillane (both 62 mins).

Cork: Micheál Martin; Sean Powter, Kieran Histon, Tadhg Corkery; Rory Maguire (0-2), John Cooper, Matthew Taylor; Cian Kelly, Joe Grimes; Kevin O’Donovan, Blake Murphy, Colm O’Callaghan; Mark Cronin (0-3, one free), Brian Hurley (capt.) (0-5, two frees), Chris Óg Jones.

Subs: Damien Gore for Murphy (33 mins), Luke Connolly for Gore, David Buckley for O’Donovan (both half-time), Daniel Dineen (0-1) for Jones, Daniel O’Connell for Kiely (both 46 mins), Kevin Flahive for Histon (51 mins), Shane Merrit for Grimes (52 mins), Kevin Crowley for Cooper (53 mins), Paudie Allen for Corkery (56 mins), Paul Ring for Powter (62 mins).

Referee: Niall Quinn (Clare)

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