Having had to assemble an entirely new panel for the 2016 campaign off the back of last year’s All-Ireland win, coupled with their less than impressive semi-final show against Limerick earlier this month, expectations in the Kingdom were relatively subdued. They needn’t have been as Stephen Wallace’s young side produced a composed display to kick-start an important five-day period for the Kingdom where all three of their Munster titles are up for defence.
Kerry wore the underdogs tag in this one, yet were led only once over the hour, and that two minutes in when Mark Sugrue put Cork on the board. Even at that, inside Kerry forwards Kieran Hurley and Sean Michéal Ó Conchúir had wasted two decent chances.
The home outfit sharpened the radar thereafter and settled with three white flags on the bounce from Patrick Clifford, Adrian Spillane and Paul O’Donoghue. The outstanding goal chance would present itself in the subsequent action, Cork centre-forward Killian O’Hanlon pulling his effort right and wide. Michael Vaughan, Cork’s most impressive on the night, kicked the first of his six points six minutes in. Cork, though, were coming off second best around the middle where Adrian Spillane asserted his presence.
Three of the next four scores fell to Kerry – Niall O’Shea, Hurley and O’Donoghue (free) moving the winners 0-6 to 0-3 clear. Vaughan, Sugrue and sub Eoghan Buckley kicked a point apiece between there and the break – no other Cork player managed to find the target in the opening period. Down the other end, captain Paul O’Donoghue continued to punish Cork indiscipline with three further frees and a second from Spillane returned Wallace’s charges back down the tunnel 0-10 to 0-6 ahead.
Cork, after their early second-half wobble of falling five adrift, stepped up the intensity a fair few gears with three unanswered points from Vaughan (0-2) and Buckley between the 37th and 43rd minute Vaughan tried his luck from distance in the ensuing play to cut the gap to the minimum, but his effort dropped into the hands of ‘keeper Darragh O’Shea. Ó Conchúir ended a 12-minute barren spell for Kerry entering the final quarter and the champions looked to have seen out the bad weather.
Paul McCarthy’s side, though, weren’t quite done. Killian O’Hanlon and O’Donoghue traded minors before Buckley and Sugrue (free) slotted points to reduce Kerry’s lead to the solitary as the clock entered stoppages.
Cork pressed and pressed, but space was non-existent. In a free-flowing, encounter where sweepers were nowhere to be found, the Rebels now found themselves knocking against a wall of 14 Kerry players. Bart Daly shot from the out the field on 62 minutes. Wide. Victory and the three-in-a-row to Kerry.
P O’Donoghue (0-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’45); SM Ó Conchúir, A Spillane (0-2 each); P Clifford, N O’Shea, K Hurley (0-1 each).
M Vaughan (0-6); M Sugrue (0-2 frees); E Buckley (0-3 each); K O’Hanlon (0-1).
D O’Shea (Ballydonoghue); D Brosnan (Gneeveguilla), J Foley (Ballydonoghue), C Ó Lúing (An Ghaeltacht); P Clifford (Templenoe) A Barry (Na Gaeil), L Bastible (John Mitchels); A Spillane (Templenoe), M O’Donnell (Austin Stacks); B Ó Seanacháin (Ballydonoghue), P O’Donoghue (St Mary’s), D Foran (St Senan’s); SM Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), K Hurley (St Pats), N O’Shea (Dromid Pearses).
F Clifford (Waterville) for Brosnan (40 mins); L O’Donoghue for Clifford (46); K O’Sullivan (Kenmare) for O’Donnell (48); R Wharton (Renard) for Foran (51); S O’Sullivan (Kenmare) for Hurley (54); A Barry (Brosna) for S O’Sullivan (62)
A Casey (Kiskeam); D Colfer (Glanworth), P Murphy (Bandon), J Mullins (Éire Óg); D O’Neill (Mayfield), B Daly (Newmarket), K Histon (Cobh); J Corkery (Boherbue), C Brosnan (Brian Dillons); M Vaughan (Millstreet), K O’ Hanlon (Kilshannig), R Harkin (Mallow); M Sugrue (Bandon), G O’ Connor (Boherbue). D Harrington (Adrigole).
E Buckley (St Michael’s) for Harrington (6 mins, inj); C Moynihan (Gabriel Rangers) for Corkery (24); TJ Brosnan (Newmarket) for O’Neill (HT); P Condon (Mayfield) for O’Connor (48); S O’Leary (Bantry Blues) for C Brosnan (52); N McCarthy (Kinsale) for Murphy (57, inj).
D Grogan (Tipperary)