By 9pm, the county’s underage factory lay in darkness, another spring malfunction materialising.
“The difference between this week and last week is phenomenal,” said Cork manager Sean Hayes.
“We touched on that performance after that game, again on Thursday, Saturday, Monday and even again tonight. They ground out the result last week, they did the same here.
Three frees from the right boot of Conor Keane moved Kerry 1-5 to 1-4 ahead directly upon the change of ends.
On 36 minutes, a Kerry player was adjudged to have touched the ball on the floor. Free Cork. Sean O’Donoghue split the posts to achieve parity.
Sean White, Peter Kelleher and Cathal Vaughan (free) swapped points with the ever-accurate Keane (three frees) – the Legion corner-forward assuming dead ball duties following Jack Savage’s black card on 15 minutes.
Kerry remaining in contention by virtue of Cork’s indiscipline. Indeed, had visiting goalkeeper Shane Ryan not produced a smart save to deny O’Donoghue entering the final quarter, this result would have been wrapped up well before the hour mark.
In any event, Sean White and Conor Horgan kicked successive points on 48 and 50 minutes. It moved Cork 1-10 to 1-8 in front, the first time in the second-half that more than two points had separated the teams.
Conor Keane missed a run-of-the-mill free turning the bend for home and further white flags from Horgan and Brian O’Driscoll secured Cork a fifth consecutive Munster final appearance.
The winners had returned to the dressing-room for the interval break 1-4 to 1-2 in front and Hayes’ charges must surely have been scratching their heads as to how they did not enjoy a more substantial lead. For when Kelleher intercepted Matthew Flaherty’s pass, teeing up Sean O’Donoghue for the contest’s opening goal, it crowned a spell of unstinting dominance from the home outfit. Seven minutes in and Cork’s lead stood at 1-2 to 0-0. And in truth, it could have been double that. Cathal Vaughan (’45) and Peter Kelleher supplied the two white flags, but both were guilty of missed chances.
Cork’s superiority continued, so too their rising wide count, Darragh Murphy and Brian O’Driscoll off target.
On 12 minutes, a foul on Matthew Flaherty, carrying out the sweeper role for Darragh O Sé’s side, enabled Jack Savage open their account. Savage and Conor Keane both wasted scoreable opportunities subsequently, but the latter earned redemption on 19 minutes. Dara Roche’s delivery was poorly dealt with by Cork ‘keeper Michael Martin, Keane gathered and slotted the ball into the left corner of the net.
Keane supplied the equaliser on 25 minutes, scarcely believable in the overall context of play. By this juncture, though, Barry O’Sullivan and Ronan Murphy were making their presence felt around the middle for Darragh O Se’s side. Cork rallied and while further questions were asked, they were not to be found wanting.
Scorers for Cork: S O’Donoghue (1-1, 0-1 free); C Vaughan (0-4, 0-3 frees); P Kelleher, S White, C Horgan (0-2 each), B O’Driscoll (0-1).
Scorers for Kerry: C Keane (1-7, 0-6 frees); J Savage (0-1 free), B Crowley (0-1 each).
CORK: M Martin (Nemo Rangers); M McSweeney (Newcestown), S Cronin (Nemo Rangers), T O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers); K Crowley (Millstreet), S White (Clonakilty), J Davis (Douglas); P Kelleher (Kilmichael), D O’ Callaghan (Clyda Rovers); A O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), B O’Driscoll (Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh), D Murphy (Valley Rovers); C Vaughan (Iveleary), K Davis (O’Donovan Ross), S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra).
Subs: D Quinn (St Finbarr’s) for Crowley (20 mins, inj), M Hurley (Castlehaven) for O’Callaghan (37), C Horgan (Nemo Rangers) for K Davis (47), C Kiely (Ballincollig) for McSweeney (55).
KERRY: S Ryan (Rathmore); C Coffey (Kerins O’Rahillys), G Crowley (Templenoe), B Ó Beaglaoich (Gaeltacht); R Murphy (Beaufort), D Daly (St Mary’s), C Ó Lúing (Gaeltacht); J Barry Na Gaeil), B O’Sullivan (Dingle); B Crowley (Templenoe), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahillys), M Burns (Dr Crokes); M Flaherty (Dingle), D Roche (Glenflesk), C Keane (Legion).
Subs: G Horan (Austin Stacks) for Savage (15 mins, bc), C Murphy (Rathmore) for Daly (50), K McCarthy (Kilcummin) for Burns (50), E Ó Conchuir for Crowley (55), L Carey (Beaufort) for Ó Conchuir (bc, 57).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).