Cork looked to have dethroned the champions and denied them their fourth title in a row after John Halbert’s 53rd-minute point gave his side a 0-9 to 0-5 lead. However, they failed to score for the remaining 10 minutes (three were added for injuries) and Kerry finished strongly to earn a replay, possibly in Cork, next Thursday.
Defensively, both teams were very strong and, while both goalmouths had lucky escapes, neither keeper was really tested.
Cork owed much to the excellence of Kevin Harrington, Michael Shields, Eoin Cadogan and Stephen Keohane, who kept a very tight rein on a much-vaunted Kerry attack, and the fact that Paddy Curran and Billy Dennehy, who excelled in the semi-final against Tipp, were withdrawn, is testament to how well the Cork defence played.
Aidan O’Sullivan was superb for Cork at midfield and his three points from play were superb efforts. While the Cork forwards enjoyed a lot of possession, only Carthrach Keane, when switched to centre-forward, Kevin Canty, until he retired injured, and Colm Callinan looked the part.
Pádraig Reidy switched to full-back early, had an excellent outing for Kerry, and reduced Cork’s dangerman Daniel Goulding to a spectator role for the last 20 minutes, and he was ably-assisted by Killian Young and Danny O’Connor in the heart of the Kingdom defence.
Aided by the wind, Kerry led after two minutes, when Darren O’Sullivan raced away before sculling. It took six minutes for Cork to score, an equalising point by Kevin Canty.
In a game riddled with frees, another six minutes went by before Brian Moran pointed a 50-metre free to restore Kerry’s advantage.
Using only five forwards, Kerry looked a lot sharper with Darren O’Sullivan very lively and, after Brian Moran and Michael O’Donoghue eased Kerry 0-3 to 0-1 in front, O’Sullivan was denied a goal with a wondrous save by Cork keeper Ken O’Halloran.
The rebound broke to the in-rushing Billy Dennehy, who fisted goalwards, but Cork corner-back Kevin Harrington was there to take the ball off the line. From that let-off, Cork took complete control, but a dreadful weakness in attack plus some faulty shooting, cost them several scores.
There was still no improvement in the standard of play as the half wore on, but the switch of Fintan Gould to midfield helped Cork and with Aidan O’Sullivan powering forward at every opportunity, the Cork captain had his side’s first score after 22 minutes and when Daniel Goulding added another, Kerry’s half-time lead of 0-4 to 0-3 did not look good enough as Cork turned to play with the wind.
Play continued to be very scrappy in the second half but, after John Buckley stretched the Kerry lead with a point, Cork’s undoubted class began to tell.
Fintan Gould’s excellent high fielding at midfield was crucial and, with O’Sullivan starring, Cork led for the first time after 40 minutes when Kevin Canty pointed. It sparked off a great period for the Leesiders and they forged 0-9 to 0-5 in front after 53 minutes, and were looking good for their first title since 2000.
However, they could not put Kerry away and John Buckley’s point from a close-in free, his side’s first for 22 minutes’ play, it sparked off a grandstand finish by the defending champions. Only some great defending by Ray Carey denied Darren O’Sullivan a match-winning goal with three minutes of normal time remaining, but the Kingdom weren’t to be denied and two late points by Mike O’Donoghue and substitute Mark Evans gave them a second bite of the cherry.
Scorers for Cork: K. Canty, A. O’Sullivan 0-3 each, D. Goulding (free), C. Callinan, J. Halbert 0-1 each.
Kerry: B. Moran (0-1 free), J. Buckley (frees), M. Evans (frees), M. O’Donoghue 0-2 each, D. O’Sullivan 0-1.
CORK: K. O’Halloran; R. Carey, N. Horgan, K. Harrington; M. Shields, E. Cadogan, S. Keohane; A. O’Sullivan, C. Keane; C. Callinan, F. Gould, P. Kerrigan; A. Concannon, D. Goulding, K. Canty. Subs: D. Crowley for Concannon, J. Halbert for Goulding, F. Lynch for Canty.
KERRY: B. Kealy; P. Reidy, L. Quinn, K. Young; D. Doyle, C. Kelleher, D. O’Connor; B. Moran, R. Keating; M. O’Donoghue, D. O’Sullivan, P. Curran; B. Dennehy, S. Murphy, J. Buckley. Subs: M. Evans for Curran, A. Kennelly for Keating, C. O’Leary for Dennehy.
Referee: M. Meade (Limerick).