The pre-match notions that this would be a tight and engaging contest were firmly shredded as Cork demolished a beleaguered Kerry outfit. It was a remarkable result as the Rebels claimed their fourth title in this grade in six years, with the margin of their victory simply staggering.
At the final whistle Cork had a hefty cushion of 22 points to spare as they comfortably eclipsed the previous record win in this competition, which was set in 1982 when Cork defeated Kerry 2-12 to 0-4 in the decider.
On a beautiful night for football, 6,000 supporters filed through the turnstiles in anticipation of an absorbing encounter. Instead they got a game which Cork had wrapped up by the interval, when they held a stunning advantage of 2-13 to 0-3.
The tone was set in a blistering opening 10-minute period as Cork posted 2-4 and only shipped a solitary James O’Donoghue in reply.
The two goals were registered by inside men Barry O’Driscoll and Donal Óg Hodnett, who were in terrific form all through. Cork made a key positional change from their semi-final against Tipperary by putting the left-footed O’Driscoll at right corner-forward and stationing Hodnett as the target man at the edge of the square. The move paid handsome dividend as O’Driscoll notched 1-6 over the hour and Hodnett fired 1-4, with the Kerry defence unable to suppress their threat.
O’Driscoll raised the first green flag in the sixth minute when he slotted into the corner after a lung-bursting run from the back by his Nemo Rangers colleague Alan Cronin.
Within 60 seconds Cork had the ball in the Kerry net again. Paul Honohan punted a clever pass forward to Hodnett who tore past Kerry full-back Mark Griffin and, after his first shot was blocked by netminder Brian Kelly, knocked home the rebound.
Outside them, Ciaran Sheehan illustrated why he has been to the fore at a higher grade with a forceful and impressive performance at wing-forward, while alongside him the display of Mark Collins suggested it will not be long before he also makes the jump to senior level. Between them they contributed 10 points, with Sheehan making several powerful runs and Collins taking his frees with composure all night.
Kerry were left reeling by the power and pace exhibited by Cork. By the 34th minute they had already sprung four substitutes from the bench, with key players like centre-back Barry Shanahan and midfielder Edmund Walsh withdrawn. That was indicative of the problems John Kennedy’s men faced on the night. Barry John Walsh, consigned to a bench role at the outset due to a hamstring injury, was brought on as early as the 28th minute and showed flashes of menace.
In the 37th minute, he fielded a high ball from James O’Donoghue, Kerry’s best and most inventive player on the night, before turning and slamming a shot against the bar.
As they tried to bridge such a huge deficit, Kerry desperately searched for goals but their pursuit was fruitless and that miss was a setback. To compound a miserable night for them, Paul Geaney dusted himself down in injury-time after being fouled only to see his penalty fly low past the upright.
The ruthlessness that Cork displayed from the off ensured they would never be caught.
Aidan Walsh produced a customary display of strength at midfield while Micheal Ó’Laoire complemented him brilliantly to ensure Cork were dominant in that sector.
With O’Driscoll, Collins, Hodnett and Sheehan all on song up front, Cork had inserted serious daylight between the teams at the break as they enjoyed a massive 16-point advantage.
In the second half, Kerry produced a mini-revival as they strung together four points between the 36th and 42nd minutes to leave them trailing 2-15 to 0-7.
However, Cork’s defence was magnificent and they never looked like conceding a deluge of scores.
Liam Jennings and Damian Cahalane lead a disciplined and focused effort while half-back Jamie Wall thrived going forward as he claimed two points.
Long before the finish Cork’s minds had drifted to an All-Ireland semi-final date with Galway on Saturday week but they kept racking up the scores in any case.
Hodnett showed his class with scores off right and left, Collins converted more frees and substitute Eoghan Buckley also got in on the act with a point to seal an excellent night’s work.
There was a nice touch to the post-match proceedings as well. Winning captain Aidan Walsh in his victory speech dedicated the trophy to Rory O’Connor, a Cork panellist who died tragically in a road accident in early February.
Scorers for Cork: B O’Driscoll 1-6 (0-2 ‘45s, 0-1f); M Collins 0-7 (5f); D Óg Hodnett 1-4; C Sheehan 0-3; J Wall 0-2; M Ó’Laoire, E Buckley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: J O’Donoghue 0-3 (2f); P Geaney 0-2 (2f); D Casey, BJ Walsh, K Hurley 0-1 each.
CORK: S Mellet; L Jennings, D Cahalane, A Cronin; P Daly, T Clancy, J Wall; M O’Leary, A Walsh; C Sheehan, M Collins, J O’Rourke; B O’Driscoll, D Óg Hodnett P Honohan. Subs: D O’Donovan for Cronin (inj) (40), E Buckley for O’Driscoll (49), S Beston for Honohan (52), B Coughlan for Sheehan (54), D Nation for Walsh (55).
KERRY: B Kelly; P Crowley, M Griffin, D O’Leary; J Sherwood, B Shanahan, J Lyne; T Ladden, E Walsh; J O’Donoghue, BJ Keane, A Fitzgerald; S O’Brien, P Geaney, D Casey.
Subs: J Walsh for Lyne (blood) (15), Lyne for J Walsh (26), BJ Walsh for Fitzgerald (28), J Walsh for E Walsh (28), P Kilkenny for Shanahan (h-t), K Hurley for O’Brien (34), C Moriarty for Sherwood (51).
Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary).