Cork boss Niall Kelleher was satisfied with his charges display: “I thought it was a good performance. Okay we didn’t get as much room as we got against Clare or Waterford but that’s what happens. We were playing a county with plenty football class and pride, so it was nice to bring off a victory. It was important for the lads.”
Cork utilised the strong wind in the first half with Andrew O’Brien offering a focal point for their attacking efforts at full-forward while alongside him U21 attacker Kevin Hallissey looked bright and sharp throughout upon his return.
By the close of the opening quarter Cork enjoyed a 0-4 to 0-0 advantage. O’Brien curled over the first score after a fine pass by centre-back Richard O’Sullivan, Hallissey then tapped over a free, midfielder Daniel O’Donovan whipped over a super point from distance and Hallissey rounded off the scoring spree with a fine score.
Kerry’s forwards did not enjoy such good fortune in their attacking endeavours. The wind resulted in wing-forwards Mike Murphy and James Walsh coming deep in their attempts to source good quality possession and get things moving up front for Kerry. They had to rely on converted frees from Gavin O’Grady and Alan Fitzgerald as their only scores of the first-half.
Cork’s defence was in excellent form. They choked the supply from deep into the Kerry inside attackers and any possession that did approach the goal was dealt with by the Cork rearguard.
Corner-backs Enda Wiseman, a veteran of this grade who drew on his experience well, and Kevin Harrington were hugely disciplined in their defending while full-back Eoin O’Mahony demonstrated why he is on the fringes of the county senior squad with a superb showing.
Cork led 0-6 to 0-2 at the break but were forced to soak up early pressure in the second-half.
Eamonn Hickson and Brian McGuire drove them on from deep while Walsh, who is still eligible for the Kerry U21 ranks for the next two years, was very impressive in the half-forward line. He launched over a brilliant point in the 35th point and that was quickly followed by another beauty by Brian Costello.
That trimmed the margin to two points but Cork increased the tempo once more with Mark Cronin, Brian Coughlan, Hallissey and O’Donovan all clipping over points to stretch their advantage.
Walsh grabbed one back for Kerry and Garnett fired in that late goal but Cork, with Richard and Andrew O’Sullivan both prominent in the second-half, held on for victory. Next up for Cork is an All-Ireland semi-final tilt against Sligo in August.
“It’s Sligo we’ve got to get ready for now”, remarked Kelleher. “They won the All-Ireland last year so they’ll obviously be tough to play against having won Connacht again this year. But that’s the challenge we now face in the All-Ireland semi-final.”
Scorers for Cork: K Hallissey 0-4 (0-1f), B Coughlan (0-1f), D O’Donovan 0-2 each, M Cronin (0-1f), A O’Brien 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: A Garnett 1-0, J Walsh 0-2, G O’Grady (0-1f), A Fitzgerald (0-1f), B Costello 0-1 each.
T O’Connor; E Wiseman, E O’Mahony, K Harrington; S Kiely, R O’Sullivan, AJ O’Connor; D O’Donovan, A O’Sullivan; M Dilworth, C Keane, B Coughlan; K Hallissey, A O’Brien, T Clancy. Subs: M Cronin for Dilworth (42), L Shorten for Clancy (50).
S Óg Ó Ciardubháin; C O’Mahony, S Brosnan, K O’Dwyer; E Hickson, B McGuire, P Kilkenny; B Costello, A Garnett; G Sayers, M Murphy, J Walsh; G O’Grady, B Poff, A Fitzgerald. Subs: D O’Callaghan for Sayers (39), F Courtney for O’Grady (50), M Coakley for Murphy (50).
Keith O’Brien (Tipperary)