Three unanswered points approaching the finish were central in propelling Kerry to a seventh consecutive Munster MFC title and, in the process, stretching to 33 the county’s unbeaten run at this grade.
The visitors to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, who had led by four points for the majority of the second period, found themselves in a spot of bother when Cork’s Patrick Campbell (free), Michael O’Neill (0-2), and Conor Corbett (free) kicked four on the bounce between the 51st and 58th minute to level matters at 3-11 to 2-14.
But instead of wobbling after having their lead wiped out, the young Kerry players showed tremendous composure to rattle off three points and ensure the provincial minor crown remains in the Kingdom for another year.
Cork, though it will be of little comfort to them after coming so close to ending Kerry’s unbeaten run, should take solace from the fact that today’s performance was a substantial improvement on their meek Phase 2 display back in early May when Kerry trounced them by 16 points at Páirc Uí Rinn.
At the end of a most enjoyable opening half hour of football, it was the visitors, despite trailing in Cork’s slipstream from the 10th to the 24th minute, who held a 2-8 to 2-6 interval lead.
Of the four first-half goals, it was Kerry’s second, provided by Dylan Geaney, after important approach play from Darragh Lynch and Kevin Goulding on 27 minutes, which was the most crucial, putting Kerry back in front - 2-8 to 2-5 - after a quarter of an hour where Cork had held the upper hand.
Kerry’s first major of this minor curtain-raiser had arrived just five minutes earlier, Colin Crowley with a most simple finish to tie proceedings at 2-4 to 1-7. A beauty from Jack O’Connor subsequently shoved Kerry into the lead and while Ryan O’Donovan nailed his second free of the day to restore parity, there followed the Kingdom’s aforementioned second green flag.
Cork’s two first-half goals arrived on six and 10 minutes respectively. The first was a flowing move, finished by Kelan Scannell, which involved Hugh Murphy, Jack Cahalane, and Patrick Campbell. The second had a touch of fortune attached to it as Campbell’s effort was knocked into the net by Kerry centre-back Adam Curran.
Kevin Goulding was responsible for Kerry’s third goal seven minutes into the second period, a score which gave them a cushion up until the closing few minutes.
Both sides advance to the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Scorers for Kerry: D Geaney (1-2); J O’Connor (0-5, 0-2 45s, 0-2 frees); C Crowley, K Goulding (1-1 each); G Hassett (0-2); S O’Brien, E O’Shea, D Lynch (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: C Corbett (0-4, 0-1 free), R O’Donovan (0-4, 0-3 frees); K Scannell (1-0); A Curran (1-0, OG); M O’Neill (0-2); S Andrews, P Campbell (0-1 free), A Walsh-Murphy, H Murphy (0-1 each).
Kerry: D Burns (Na Gaeil); K O'Sullivan (Cromane), A Dineen (Rathmore), L Chester (Austin Stacks); E O'Sullivan (Legion), A Curran (Austin Stacks), S O'Brien Séan (Beaufort); J Linehan (Knocknagoshel), R Collins (Gneeveguilla); C Crowley (Templenoe), J O‘Connor (Beaufort), D Lynch (Listowel); D Geaney (Dingle), K Goulding (Ballyduff), G Hassett (Laune Rangers).
Subs: C Ó Beaglaoich (Gaeltacht) for Linehan (40); E O’Shea (Fossa) for Goulding, Dylan O'Callaghan (Firies) for Crowley (both 46); J Kerins (Dr Crokes) for O’Brien (48, inj); T Sparling (Dr Crokes) for Dineen (59, bc); T Ó hAiniféin (Na Gaeil) for Lynch (62).
Cork: A O’Brien (Mitchelstown); S Andrews (Shamrocks), N Lordan (Ballinora), J O’Shea (Urhan); T O’Donoghue (Carrignavar), D Linehan, (Castlemagner), D Peet (Clonakilty); J Lawton (Argideen Rangers), K Scannell (Carbery Rangers); H Murphy (Éire Óg), P Campbell (Nemo Rangers), A Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers); J Cahalane (Castlehaven), R O’Donovan (Barryroe), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers).
Subs: K O’Driscoll (Gabriel Rangers) for Walsh-Murphy (25 mins); M O’Neill (Buttevant) for O’Shea (HT); A O’Hare (Douglas) for O’Donovan (49); S Aherne (Douglas) for Campbell (55); N Gough (Bishopstown) for Andrews (62).