By Michael Moynihan
On a searing-hot evening in Tralee, Kerry collected the first ever Munster U20 championship, making it a clean sweep in provincial football for the green and gold.
Cork started well with a fine first-minute point from midfielder Colm O’Callaghan, and they added two more points in the first five minutes.
Though Kerry had the wind they were slower to settle, and Cork enjoyed a good return from high balls delivered into their full-forward line - midfielder Mark Keane was pushed in on the edge of the square for the Leesiders and broke good ball.
By the 11th minute Kerry were level, however, with Fiachra Clifford pulling the strings from right-half-forward and Cormac Linnane running from deep. Both players helped Kerry regain parity, and on 14 minutes they pulled ahead.
Clifford dropped a high ball in to the danger area and corner-forward David Shaw fielded well, turning to beat Ian Giltinan in the Cork goal.
With the score 1-3 to 0-4 Kerry might have been expected to press on, but Cork hit back with four unanswered points, three of them from the boot of Chris Og Jones.
Kerry levelled the game again, 1-5 to 0-8, thanks to Linnane and Donal O’Sullivan (free), but O’Callaghan ended the half as he started it, with a point from distance.
There was still time for Clifford to swing over the equaliser, however, making it 1-6 to 0-9 at the break.
Whether through the sun, still strong in Tralee late in the evening, or their exertions in the first half, neither team got going on the resumption. Cork chipped in with a Jones free and crucially, missed a decent goal chance just afterwards.
On 40 minutes the game took a decisive swing, however, when sub. Eddie Horan, just on the field, crashed home a goal from close range. That moved Kerry to 2-6 against Cork’s 0-10, and though Jones, again, hit back with a point, the momentum was with the Kingdom.
The score was 0-12 to 2-8, and we had just had our second water-break, when the game finished as a contest. Kevin O’Donovan seemed to dispossess Donal O’Sullivan as the Kerryman bore down on goal but referee Sean Lonergan awarded a penalty - and gave O’Donovan a black card.
Mark Ryan stroked the penalty into the corner and the game was more or less over. Kerry added two points and Cork raised two white flags, but the game was up.
Kerry face the Leinster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final and may need to take another look at the last line of their defence, but their forwards worked well together and 3-11 is good scoring at any grade.
For Cork the season is over, though senior manager Ronan McCarthy may want to take a look at Chris Og Jones as his men face into the qualifier route.
Scorers for Kerry: E. Horan, D. Shaw, M. Ryan (pen)(1-0 each); D. O’Sullivan (2 frees)(0-3); F. Clifford (1 free), C. Linnane, S. O’Leary (0-2 each); B. Sweeney, G. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: C. Og Jones (3 frees)(0-7); C. O’Callaghan, M. Keane (0-2 each); T. Corkery, C. Barrett, D. Gore (0-1 each).
KERRY: B. Lonergan, D. Naughton, S. Okunbor, M. Reidy, M. Breen, G. O’Sullivan, D. O’Brien, M. Ryan, D. O’Connor, F. Clifford, C. Linnane, D. Moynihan, D. O’Sullivan (c), B. Sweeney, D. Shaw.
Subs: B. Friel for Linnane (35); E. Horan for Shaw (40); S. O’Leary for Moynihan (40, black card); M. Potts for Clifford (48); M. Foley for O’Connor (55); C. Gammell for Naughton (62).
CORK: I. Giltinan, N. Walsh, S. Walsh, K. O’Donovan, L. O’Donovan (c), A. Browne, T. Linehan, C. O’Callaghan, M. Keane, M. Shanley, T. Corkery, C. Maguire, C. Barrett, C. Og Jones, D. Gore.
Subs: S. O’Sullivan for C. Maguire (HT); K. Myers Murray for Shanley (35); M. Bradley for Barrett, M. Cronin for Gore (48); L. Wall for S. Walsh, M. Bradley for C. Barrett and M. Cronin for D. Gore (all 48); A. McCarthy for O’Donovan (black card 52).
Referee: S. Lonergan (Tipperary)