In a game that was hugely entertaining, the defending champions led from start to finish, and while they had a couple of scary moments, never looked like losing.
It was a massive improvement by both teams on their form from the drawn game, and it contributed to a tremendous contest.
Kerry won because they wanted it more. They chased and harassed Cork at every opportunity and had a number of outstanding individuals who made major contributions to this latest success.
Defensively, they kept a tight rein on the Cork forwards with Luke Quinn, Killian Young and Ciarán Kelleher superb.
In attack, Rory Keating, Andrew Kennelly, John Buckley and Darren O’Sullivan tormented the Cork defence at every opportunity.
However, standing head and shoulders over everybody else was the towering figure of Brian Moran at midfield. Son of the legendary Ogie Moran, Brian’s superb high-fielding and excellent free-taking were crucial to Kerry’s win.
Cork were again hugely disappointing and not too many players came out of this game with their reputation intact.
Time and again, they gave away possession through sloppy ball-handling, never seemed to be there for the breaking ball, and were always behind their men in a race for possession.
To be fair, they did create three goal chances but only took one and were made to pay the ultimate price by a Kerry side that looked the hungrier.
Kerry played with the strong wind to their backs in the opening half and led after 40 seconds through a Mark Evans point. Cork were level two minutes later when Daniel Goulding pointed a free, but they began to struggle as Kerry used the elements to great advantage.
With Brian Moran giving them a strong grip at midfield, Kerry began to exert enormous pressure on the home defence, and only a superb save at the expense of a point by goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran denied Shane Murphy a goal, but Kerry were full value for their 0-3 to 0-1 lead after 10 minutes. Cork were clearly in trouble in most sections of the field, principally due to sloppy ball-handling, and with Rory Keating and Andrew Kennelly giving the Cork backs a torrid time, Kerry were full value for their 0-6 to 0-3 lead after 20 minutes, significantly all Cork’s scores coming from frees by Daniel Goulding.
In an effort to try and get the side moving, Cork made a number of switches, but it mattered little as Kerry, with Moran ruling the roost at mid-field, continued to dictate matters all over the field and deservedly led 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time.
There was a lot more urgency to Cork on the changeover and after the sides shared four points between them, the home side lost the glorious chance of a goal in the 37th minute when Denis Crowley blazed wide from 13 metres after Carthrach Keane put him through.
However, Kerry’s greater appetite for work was very evident and by the end of the third quarter, they still had their half-time lead of five points intact, as Keating, Kennelly and John Buckley stretched the Cork defence at every opportunity.
Cork needed a goal if they were to turn this game around and were denied by a brilliant save by Kerry keeper Brendan Kealy from Daniel Goulding.
Cork continued to apply the pressure in search of that elusive goal, and it finally came after Crowley was fouled going through and Goulding slotted home the resultant penalty to leave just two points between the sides with five minutes remaining. From such a position and urged on by the huge home following, Cork were expected to win, but Kerry kept their composure under the enormous pressure. They wasted two chances to put the game beyond Cork’s reach in the closing minutes before Brian Moran showed his class with the insurance point from a long-range free.
Kerry: B. Moran (0-2 frees, 0-1 45), J. Buckley (frees) 0-4 each; R. Keating, M. Evans (0-1 free) 0-2 each; S. Murphy 0-1. Cork: D. Goulding 1-5 (1-4 frees); G. O’Shea, C. Callinan 0-1 each.
B. Kealy, P. Reidy, L. Quinn, K. Young, D. Doyle, C. Kelliher, D. O’Connor, B. Moran, R. Keating, M. Evans, A. Kennelly, M. O’Donoghue, S. Murphy, D. O’Sullivan, J. Buckley. Subs: B. Dennehy for Evans, K. O’Leary for O’Donoghue, D. Culloty for O’Connor.
K. O’Halloran, S. O’Donoghue, N. Horgan, K. Harrington, M. Shields, E. Caddigan, S. Keohane, A. O’Sullivan, F. Lynch, D. Crowley, D. Goulding, C. Keane, C. Callinan, F. Gould, J. Halbert. Subs: G. O’Shea for Lynch, K. Canty for Halbert, K. O’Halloran for Keohane, P. Kerrigan for Keane.
B. Tyrell (Tipperary).