By John Fogarty
Kerry 1-11 Cork 1-6
The quick-thinking of substitute Colm Cooper was the spark that brightened this gloomy, rain-lashed Munster final replay for Kerry.
His rapid free was the catalyst for Paul Geaney's goal in the 50th minute after Donnchadh Walsh's shot had been stopped by Ken O'Halloran.
Cork didn't score for the remainder of the game as the expertise of Kerry closed the game out. In fact, Cork didn't score for the final 26 minutes of action after such a decent first half.
Donncha O'Connor rues a missed chance today. Pictures: Sportsfile
Geaney may have been chief scorer from play but this victory was down to the likes of Jonathan Lyne, Marc Ó Sé, Aidan O'Mahony and their midfield partnership who stood up to everything Cork mustered in the second half.
In surreal conditions watched by a 32,333 crowd in floodlights-less Fitzgerald Stadium, James O'Donoghue finally loosened the shackles put on him for most of the game by James Loughrey as he won a free on the hour mark and then sent over his first and last of the game in the 63rd minute.
Cork had made two late changes, Eoin Cadogan and Fintan Goold making way for Jamie O'Sullivan and Paddy Kelly respectively. And despite the heap of ball that came Kerry captain Donaghy's way in the opening quarter, O'Sullivan wasn't faring too badly.
The same couldn't be said for Brian Hurley who at the other end was finding Shane Enright a sticky customer. Alan O'Connor and Kevin O'Driscoll were also coming out second best in the middle.
On an evening when good discipline was of paramount importance, Kerry behaved better in the first half when they had the wind and merited their advantage as slim as it was at 0-8 to 1-4. Five of their scores came from Bryan Sheehan's boot with midfielder O'Connor coughing up two of them having earlier been yellow-carded for dunting Paul Geaney.
O'Mahony also made his way into Maurice Deegan's book for a bad tackle on Donncha O'Connor.
Geaney scored two fine points one after another to give Kerry a two-point lead in the 12th minute and it became three when Sheehan dusted himself off to point a free he had won. Cork didn't register a point from play until the 17th minute but it was a beauty from Brian O'Driscoll.
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice watches the match this evening.
Kerry had restored their three-point gain in the 28th minute via a Sheehan free when Kerry's cover was blown apart when Donncha O'Connor supplied Colm O'Neill who in turn found the on-rushing Paul Kerrigan and his shot was too good for Brendan Kealy.
However, the Kerry goalkeeper's touch was good enough to deny Stephen Cronin a goal seconds later, pushing the ball onto the bar and into the hands of a Kerry defender. Sheehan finished out the half's scoring after Deegan brought forward a free twice to ensure the home team were in front at the break.
Brian Cuthbert during the match this evening.
After the match, Cork manager Brian Cuthbert told RTE Cork had "made a couple of mistakes…and were unfortunate", but agreed Kerry gained control of the game after the Geaney goal.
"They defended very, very well," he said, adding Cork now had to "dig (them)selves out of the mire and go again".
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice said it had been a "ferocious battle, nothing more than we expected…We had to be at the very top of our game to win , and thankfully, we were".
Kerry captain Kieran Donaghy lifts the cup after Kerry were crowned Munster champions this evening.
Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan (0-5, 5 frees); P Geaney (1-3, 0-1 free), D Walsh, J Lyne, J O'Donoghue (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: P Kerrigan (1-0); C O'Neill (0-3, 2 frees); D O'Connor (free), Brian O'Driscoll, K O'Driscoll (0-1 each).
Subs for Kerry: M Geaney for J Buckley (inj 30); C Cooper for K Donaghy (45); S O'Brien for B Sheehan (58); BJ Keane for P Geaney (63); P Galvin for D Walsh (66); P Crowley for K Young (68). Red: S O'Brien (70, second yellow).
Subs for Cork: F Goold for D O'Connor (47); C Dorman for K O'Driscoll (55); D Goulding for P Kelly (60); T Clancy for Barry O'Driscoll (66); J Hayes for B Hurley (67).
for Barry O'Driscoll (66); J Hayes for B Hurley (67).
KERRY: B Kealy; S Enright, P Murphy, M Ó Sé; A O'Mahony, K Young, J Lyne; A Maher, D Moran; D Walsh, B Sheehan, J Buckley; P Geaney, K Donaghy, J O'Donoghue.
CORK: K O'Halloran; J Loughrey, J O'Sullivan, M Shields; Brian O'Driscoll, S Cronin, Barry O'Driscoll; A O'Connor, K O'Driscoll; P Kerrigan, P Kelly, M Collins; C O'Neill, D O'Connor, B Hurley.
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)