Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice mentioned in the build-up that Cork had returned to more of a running game. Unfortunately for Cork, they seemed so preoccupied in moving the ball through the hands that they didn’t see that both Colm O’Neill and Brian Hurley were left alone with Marc Ó Sé and Shane Enright in oodles of space.
Maybe it was that Kerry assumed they wouldn’t kick long and could afford to be so daring, but can they be as cavalier in the replay when one long Cork kick could have them scurrying?
Alan O’Connor was RTÉ’s selection as man-of-the-match but, really, it wasn’t until David Moran exited the play following a black card that he put his mark on the game. Up to that point, he was in a spot of bother and Kerry really hurt Cork on their own kick-out in the final stages of the first half. Sunday will have knocked a lot of the rustiness from O’Connor’s system, but Moran is an itch he has yet to scratch.
It’s a pity for Cork’s sake that Paul Kerrigan didn’t remain on the field because, even from deep, he certainly had the foot-passing skills to find the inside line of O’Neill and Hurley. Paddy Kelly did a fine job in his stead, but the sweeper policy involving Kerrigan and Fintan Goold was key to subduing Kerry’s attacking threat early on.
By the turnaround, Kerry may have fallen just one point shy of the 13-point, first-half total they had averaged for their last two championship games against Cork, but at least Cork were scoring, unlike in 2013 and 2014.
K O’Halloran; S Cronin, E Cadogan, J Loughrey; Brian O’Driscoll, M Shields, Barry O’Driscoll; A O’Connor, K O’Driscoll; F Goold, M Collins, P Kerrigan; C O’Neill, D O’Connor, B Hurley.
Colm Cooper’s point shortly after coming on in the second half was as much to do with the beauty of Marc Ó Sé’s pass as his right-footed finish. He’ll need no reminding he let himself down in not tracking Michael Shields well in the build-up to Barry O’Driscoll’s goal.
That failure may have been one of the reasons why Fitzmaurice kept him in reserve, but the prospect of another turn on the bench would surely motivate the 32-year-old. James O’Donoghue has shown he can play the No11 role. Might he change places with the man who for so long was the best corner forward in the country?
Donaghy was vital in the lead-up to the penalty and Paul Geaney’s late chance, but he found Eoin Cadogan quite the handful for a considerable part of Sunday’s match. Cadogan was only too happy to disrupt the service with fisted ball until Donaghy realised he would be better off getting touches to it himself, rather than attempting to field it with Cadogan’s Thor-hammer-like fist coming down on him.
Diagonal ball is preferable, but the Kerry captain showed an impressive knack of making the most of some poor deliveries.
It wasn’t exactly a dereliction of duty on the part of Kerry’s half-back line but there were too many occasions when they got sucked into the centre of the field. This has happened to Kerry against Cork in Killarney before, particularly during Jack O’Connor’s time, though they enjoyed healthy leads at those stages of games.
In derbies, there is a tendency to look for a slug-out rather than keep discipline in shape. Holding their line similar to the way they did against Donegal might be preferable even if there is an attractiveness in pushing up on Cork’s running game.
B Kealy; P Murphy, F Fitzgerald, M Ó Sé; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; D Moran, B Sheehan; J Buckley, J O’Donoghue, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, BJ Keane.