Kerry 1-23 Cork 0-15
We should remember that the cloud-busting memories of the Cork-Kerry Munster football finals are as much about ritual as what happens on the field. This was Kerry’s 79th title and their fifth in a row. They have always had the dominant voice down south. There is no call yet for last rites on one of the time-honoured days of the GAA summer calendar.
But still, there was a sense around Killarney that the clans from both sides of the border are as enthusiastic as ever – some 31, 836 turned up to this Munster final because that’s what you do on the fist Sunday in July. They were honouring the day. The predictions that Cork would be no match for Kerry proved right sooner rather than later.
Two tidy scores from Stephen O’Brien just after half time settled all minds that the result was only going one way. Those scores bracketed a mad period of play when Cork goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran went walkabout in search of a teammate to pass to, got whistled for a double hop out around the 50 and beat a Paddy Cullenesque path back to the ranch as the home crowd bayed for a moment of Kerry impudence.
They had to settle for a huge, ballooned point from David Moran. Economy rather than extravagance was Kerry’s calling card when the game was there to be won. They played in staccato bursts, moving the ball from one end of the field to the other with impressive economy and did not register a wide until the 43rd minute, by which time they had created 0-16. They were out of sight in terms of the contest and the Kerry cognoscenti watched on to try and forecast what this year’s vintage might do in the dog days of August.
There was much to savour. A winter in Ireland’s basketball halls seems to have done a Benjamin Button job on Kieran Donaghy: the big Tralee playmaker looks sharp. Hovering around him were Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue, who combined for 1-12 between them and generally did enough to prevent Kerry withdrawal symptoms from the Cooper retirement.
For all that, Michael Geaney was the most eye-catching forward on the field while Mark Griffin, at fullback, encapsulated Kerry’s directness by murdering a high ball he contested with Luke Connolly in the 29th minute and starting a counter-move which O’Donoghue finished.
The Kerry bench was loaded with impatient would-be starters. The game was distinguished by the rare sight of an early Donncadh Walsh departure.
The Cromane man is a bit like one of those brilliant character actors like Chris Cooper or Chris Penn; rarely billed as the leading man but frequently the best thing about the movie. Here, however, Walsh was at times bothered by the close-range shadow work of Sean Powter, whose debut Munster final was one of the most encouraging things about the day for Cork.
What of Cork? The first seven minutes were frightening to even watch as they fell into a 0-4 hole and seemed in danger of dissolving entirely. To their credit they didn’t. An 11th minute goal chance for Ian Maguire was cleared by Brian Kelly and Shane Enright but Cork relaxed for a period in the first half and worked their running game against Kerry’s high-pressing defence to create chances which they translated into seven first half wides.
Tomas Clancy’s pace caused episodic problems and Nemo’s Luke Connolly kept showing but, as the game turned Kerry’s way, Donncadh O’Connor – Cork’s wonderful veteran – kept the flag flying with a 0-6 personal second half. They are a puzzle, Cork. The video-edit should contain enough clips to convince their players that if they can create as they did here against Kerry – Paul Kerrigan and Mark Collins both landed wonderful scores – they should be able to do more against the lesser lights. Afterwards, Peader Healy noted that Cork had failed to convert 19 goal chances in the league. That wastefulness continued to be a theme here.
It’s as if Cork have slipped into a state that they don’t full recognise. It was easy to forget that Cork had senior All-Ireland medalists on the field. How and why they were so helpless against the blistering starts Kerry made in opening minutes of both halves will merit an in-house conversation. They trailed 0-11 to 0-7 at half time, having coughed up an injury time point to Paul Geaney, following a punishing break forward by Paul Murphy.
Things might have been a lot worse and there was a sense that maybe Cork would bring the fight to the home team when the contest resumed. Instead, Kerry found all kinds of gaps in the Cork defence and fired five points in as many minutes and the day was done.
Fionn Fitzgerald, the Kerry captain, shipped a heavy accidental blow in the second half but should be fit again for the quarter finals and had recovered to lift the cup. So there was nothing of the old Cork-Kerry fury on Killarney’s big football day. Just as well that the panoramic backdrop never disappoints.
KERRY: 1 B Kelly; 2 F Fitzgerald, 3 M Griffin, 4 S Enright (0-1); 5 P Crowley, 6 T Morley, 7 P Murphy (0-1); 8 D Moran (0-1), 9 A Maher (0-1); 10 M Geaney (0-2 1 free), 11 K McCarthy, 12 D Walsh; 13 P Geaney (1-5, 1 free), 14 K Donaghy (0-1), 15 J O'Donoghue (0-7, 4 frees).
Substitutes: 19 S O’Brien (0-3) for D Walsh (half-time), 20 J Buckley for 11 K McCarthy (47 mins), 22 K Young for 2 F Fitzgerald (51 mins inj.), 17 J Barry for 9 A Maher (59 mins), 18 BJ Keane (0-1) for 13 J O’Donoghue (64 mins), 23 D O’Sullivan for 14 K Donaghy (65 mins), 20 J Lyne for 10 M Geaney (65 mins).
CORK: 1 K O'Halloran; 2 J Loughrey, 3 J O'Sullivan, 7 K Crowley; 5 T Clancy (0-1), 6 M Shields, 4 S Powter; 10 R Deane, 9 I Maguire (0-1); 8 A Walsh, 11 M Collins (0-2 1 free), 12 K O'Driscoll; 25 N Coakley (0-2 frees), 14 L Connolly (0-1 free), 15 P Kerrigan (0-1).
Substitutes: 17 A O’Connor for 10 R Deane (30 mins) 20 D O’Connor (0-6 4 frees) for 25 N Coakley (half-time), 19 Colm O’Driscoll for M Shields (48 mins), 24 M Hurley for 12 K O’Driscoll (46 mins), 21 E Cadogan for 3 J O’Sullivan (64 mins), 26 S Cronin for 2 J Loughrey (64 mins).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).