It was a strange kind of game, though: the six-point winning margin flattered the visitors more than the hosts, but Cork could conceivably have won a first provincial title in six years. With 13 minutes of normal time left, they hit the front, 3-7 to 2-9, as Mark Buckley scored his second goal of the game, benefiting from a Nathan Walsh clearance which bounced in such a manner as to wrong-foot the Kerry defence and allow the Dohenys man a clear path to goal.
Unfortunately for Brian Herlihy’s side, the lead was a brief one, not to be repeated. At the other end, Kerry had a match-winner in corner- forward David Clifford and he lived up to that billing when he needed to. In the first-half, he had set up goals for Bryan Sweeney and captain Seán O’Shea and this time he took on the scoring mantle himself, surging in from the right and netting after a quickly-taken free.
It served to revitalise the Kingdom and deflate Cork, who would score just one more point. With the Rebels having brought players back in the second-half after being too open early on, Kerry sent wing-back Micheál Foley forward and he would score two late points as well as shooting wide with a goal chance. Two more Clifford points and one from O’Shea ensured that they were comfortable in the end, progressing to an All-Ireland quarter-final with the Ulster runners-up while Cork await the champions from the northern province.
Such an outcome appeared inevitable after 12 minutes, when Kerry led 2-3 to 0-2, and if their journey is to go beyond the last eight then they will need to ensure no complacency is allowed to creep in after such leads have been assembled. Those opening stages were very one-sided as Kerry were repeatedly allowed to cruise through the Cork cover. They led 0-2 to 0-1 after five minutes when midfielder Mike Breen was able to carry the ball forward before sending an inviting delivery to Clifford, whose trickery allowed him to create space for a pass across goal to Sweeney for an easy finish.
Dara Moynihan extended the lead after a turnover though Cork responded with Damien Gore’s second free, the flow was largely in the other direction. Cork full-back Aidan Browne was having to lead a firefighting effort at times and he had to make a good interception to strip Sweeney of possession when a goal chance could have presented itself, but Kerry didn’t have to wait long.
Again Clifford was central to the build-up, linking with Moynihan to give possession to captain O’Shea, whose finish was clinical. They didn’t drive on from there, though, and Gore’s frees just about kept Cork in touch before Rory O’Driscoll’s nice pass allowed Buckley to get in for a goal, all of a sudden reducing the deficit to 2-5 to 1-5. By half-time, Kerry had slightly more breathing space, 2-7 to 1-6, but that was eradicated within three minutes of the restart. First Colm O’Callaghan’s goal-bound effort was half-blocked by Graham O’Sullivan and though netminder Billy Courtney looked to have saved, the ball was adjudged to have crossed the line.
Buckley’s point immediately after that levelled matters, but Cork, with wing-forward Cathal Maguire, having dropped back into a deep role to protect the defence, found the lack of manpower at the other end meant Kerry still had the bulk of the attacks. Half-time sub Cathal Foley was putting himself about to good effect, however. Two Clifford points, one a free, put Kerry two in front again but Buckley’s second goal saw Cork assume the lead. It posed a question of Kerry, but, inspired by Clifford, they had a strong answer.
D. Clifford 1-5 (2 frees), S. O’Shea 1-4 (2 frees, 1 45), B. Sweeney 1-0, D. Moynihan, M. Foley 0-2 each, B. Friel 0-1.
M. Buckley 2-2, D. Gore 0-4 (frees), C. O’Callaghan 1-0, C. Maguire 0-2.
B. Courtney (Dr Crokes); G. O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), N. Collins (Listowel Emmets), M. Reidy (Ballymacelligott); M. Potts (Dr Crokes), M. Foley (Ballydonoghue), D. O’Brien (Glenbeigh-Glencar); M. Breen (Beaufort), M. Ryan (Rathmore); D. O’Connor (Na Gaeil), S. O’Shea (Kenmare), D. Moynihan (Spa); B. Friel (Rathmore), D. Clifford (Fossa), B. Sweeney (Listowel Emmets).
D. Naughton (Dr Crokes) for Reidy (half-time), C. Linnane (Beale) for Sweeney (41), D. Shaw (Dr Crokes) for Friel (44), C Teahan (Glenbeigh- Glencar) for Ryan (58), F. O’Brien (Austin Stacks) for O’Connor, S. Okunbar (Na Gaeil) for Foley (both 60).
M. White (Clonakilty); A. McCarthy (St Finbarr’s), A. Browne (Trinity Gaels), L. O’Donovan (Clonakilty); R. O’Driscoll (Garnish), N. Walsh (Douglas), T. Ó Corcra (Cill na Martra); J. Ryan (Ballymartle), S. Ryan (Ballinascarthy); S. O’Sullivan (Mitchelstown), K. O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), C. Maguire (Castlehaven); D. Gore (Kilmacabea), C. O’Callaghan (Éire Óg), M. Buckley (Dohenys).
C. Foley (Kilmichael) for J. Ryan (half-time), S. O’Driscoll (Glanmire) for O’Sullivan (48), G. O’Donoghue (Ballincollig) for S. Ryan (53), S. Minihane (Ilen Rovers) for R. O’Driscoll, C. O’Mahony (Mitchelstown) for K. O’Donovan (both 59).
A. Kissane (Waterford).