This was no procession, however, not even with the aid of a dominant first half which saw them lead by 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time. A spirited second-half revival from Kildare, buttressed by a goal from Keith Cribbin, had them level with 10 minutes left as Cork laboured.
Crucially, though, the Lilywhites never hit the front, and Cork did enough in the closing stages, with Cathal Vaughan, Ruairí Deane and Kevin O’Driscoll hitting late points. Cork go further clear on the roll of honour, but manager Paul McCarthy expected a tough challenge after needing extra-time against the same opponents in the 2011 final.
“Two years ago, we were seven points down quite early in the game,” he said, “and our mantra for the last few weeks was that we’d be the team taking the initiative.
“We knew Kildare wouldn’t give up, they have big strong players and they just battle and battle. We probably had the players who were able to take the points whereas they lacked that a little bit.”
In the first half, that difference was magnified as five of the starting Cork forwards scored from play, despite Kildare playing a sweeper. Former senior Fiachra Lynch conducted operations from full-forward, scoring two fine efforts and being involved in the build-up play for three more. Wing-forward Colm O’Driscoll was a live wire and Cathal Vaughan impressed from play and frees, with Micheál Ó Laoire and Deane going well at midfield. At times, Cork’s defence looked vulnerable, but Kildare never did enough to fully test that, as Ciarán Fitzpatrick and Cathal McNally only saw glimpses of goal with half-chances.
Turning with a 0-9 to 0-3 deficit, Kildare opened the second-half scoring through Cian Bolton, but Vaughan answered that with a Cork free and matters looked set to follow a similar pattern to the first half.
Seven minutes in, Kildare gave themselves a huge boost as Cribbin found the net, but it was not without assistance from their opponents. After Cork gave the ball away cheaply, Cribbin’s point attempt was deflected and when the danger was not sufficiently dealt with, the midfielder was on hand to net from close range.
When Hughie Mahon and then captain Séamus Hanafin added further Kildare points, Cork were up against it, and an anxiety had slipped into their play.
Mahon, after a nice one-two with sub Gavin Farrell, then tied matters at 0-10 to 1-7 and with 10 minutes left it was anybody’s game. That Vaughan immediately put Cork back in front was key, and then Deane – after a good run – provided breathing space.
Kildare mounted one last attack as they searched for a winning goal, but Cork broke and Kevin O’Driscoll concluded matters with this second point, leaving McCarthy delighted.
“We were never led at any stage,” he said.
“We had six of the 2011 team and a lot have played in All-Ireland latter stages at various levels. They drew on that experience.
“One other small simple matter is that they’re damn good footballers when it comes to it as well.”
Scorers for Cork: C Vaughan (0-5, 3f), K O’Driscoll, F Lynch (0-2 each), R Deane, M Ó Laoire, A O’Brien, C O’Driscoll (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kildare: H Mahon (0-3), K Cribbin (1-0), C Bolton (0-2, 1f), S Hanafin (f), P Mahon, C McNally (0-1 each).
CORK: D Hanrahan; AJ O’Connor, E O’Mahony, K Harrington; Richard O’Sullivan, Rory O’Sullivan, S Kiely; R Deane, M Ó Laoire; C Vaughan, A O’Brien, C O’Driscoll; K O’Driscoll, F Lynch, D Harrington.
Subs: P Daly for O’Mahony (32-33, blood sub), Daly for Rory O’Sullivan (43), M Vaughan for Harrington (45), E Buckley for O’Brien (59).
KILDARE: C Heneghan; J O’Connor, W Burke, P Warren; D Barker, C Fitzpatrick, C O’Shea; K Cribbin, S Darcy; C Fagan, S Hanafin, H Mahon; P Mahon, C Bolton, C McNally.
Subs: G Waters for Warren (35), G Farrell for Darcy (41), D Grehan for P Mahon (55), D Duke for H Mahon (60).
Referee: G McCormack (Dublin).