In sweltering conditions, Sarah Houlihan and Anna Galvin scored late goals to send Kerry to a final clash with Waterford on July 8.
Cork’s defeat means their unbroken run of appearing in provincial deciders (2004-2016) is over — and Ephie Fitzgerald’s charges will attempt to retain their All-Ireland crown through the back door.
In a see-saw battle, Cork came from six points down early in the second to lead by three, before Houlihan and Galvin found the net in the 57th and 58th minutes. Cork claimed the last two points through Annie Walsh and Eimear Scally but it is Kerry who meet the Déise in a repeat of the 2003 Munster decider.
“It was a fantastic game, both teams gave it everything,” Ní Mhuircheartaigh gasped. “We went in five points up but we knew Cork would come back at us. When they went ahead, our heads didn’t drop. In the past, our heads would drop but it’s a sign of the heart and experience in the team that we didn’t panic and hopefully we can build from this and move on.”
Cork and Kerry had both suffered defeats to Waterford in the round-robin series of games leaving Saturday’s tie as a winner-takes-all Munster clash. And Ní Mhuircheartaigh agreed Kerry, who scored all of their points from play in the first half on their way to a 0-10 to 0-5 interval lead, have improved significantly.
She said: “We needed to prove a point today and thank God, we did. We’ll have to knuckle down, fix up the mistakes we made in these games and try and improve on them before final final in three weeks’ time.”
Kerry’s five-point interval lead moved out to six early in the second half but Cork were level with 16 minutes left. Áine O’Sullivan’s 34th-minute goal kickstarted a Rebel revival and when Niamh Cotter goaled in the 44th minute, the sides were level at 2-8 to 0-14.
Cork then moved three points clear but Kerry had that late kick in them and claimed a famous win.
S Houlihan (1-3), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh (0-5, 3f), A Galvin (1-1), L Rogers (0-4), L Scanlon (0-2).
O Finn (0-8, 4f), N Cotter & A O’Sullivan (1-0 each), E Scally (0-3), A Walsh (0-2).
L Fitzgerald; E Lynch, A Desmond, A Leonard; C Murphy, E Sherwood, S Leahy; L Scanlon, D Hallissey; A Brosnan, A Galvin, C Kelly; S Houlihan, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh, L Rogers.
E O’Leary for Brosnan (52m).
M O’Brien; M Ambrose, B Stack, M Duggan; E Meaney, R Phelan, S Kelly; N Cotter, J O’Shea; M O’Callaghan, B O’Sullivan, A Walsh; E Scally, A O’Sullivan, O Finn.
Coppinger for O’Callaghan (h.t.), A Hutchings for Kelly (h.t.), O Farmer for A O’Sullivan (57). Referee: J Mullins (Limerick).