Yesterday evening in Tralee, the Cork minors were sure they had done enough to force extra-time against a county which has not tasted defeat at this level since August of 2013.
As Cork celebrated Conor Corbett’s 61st-minute equalising goal, Kerry quickly reset. Referee Sean Lonergan had indicated three minutes of stoppages and the hosts had no intention of holding on for two additional 10-minute periods. A county does not win four All-Irelands on the hop with a keep-ball mentality.
Goalkeeper Marc Kelliher put the ball back in play, possession was worked to Jack O’Connor, the substitute from Beaufort had ghosted up the field without little or any attention being paid to him, and despite numerous Cork shirts closing in, he held his nerve to land the winning point.
There was time for Cork to chase an equaliser. None was forthcoming. The defeat marks a fifth consecutive summer where the county’s minor campaign has ended at the hands of their neighbours. No more than the 2015 extra-time semi-final defeat in Tralee, this one will hurt.
Cork, aided by the wind, were the more probing side in the opening half and yet went back down the tunnel tied at 1-3 to 0-6. The result appeared beyond them when Kerry kicked six unanswered points between the 38th and 44th minute, but the visitors refused to go away.
Two Aodhán Ó Luasa frees and a Jack Kelleher minor had them within touching distance, 1-10 to 0-10, as the clock entered the red.
Their equalising goal came from the likeliest of suspects. Conor Corbett had been a thorn in the Kerry defence all evening, kicking four points from play in the opening half. He smashed a low shot past Kelliher to tie up matters. And still, Kerry march on.
The development of this Cork group, as in 2015 and 2017, will be somewhat stunted by a failure to negotiate the Munster semi-final hurdle. Kerry will be kicking ball until at least late July, looking forward to a seventh straight Munster final.
Trailing 0-7 to 1-3 early in the second half, the hosts appeared to have made the decisive burst when kicking six unanswered points to move 1-9 to 0-7 ahead. Ruaidhrí Ó Beaglaoich (two frees), O’Connor, Dan McCarthy, Jack Kennelly, and Paul Walsh were all on the mark as a Kingdom attack, so subdued in the opening period, sparked to action.
O’Connor’s winner aside, they’ll have been disappointed by the manner in which they allowed Cork restore parity.
They’ll be disappointed too by a first half where they went scoreless for periods of 11 and 16 minutes.
Having recovered from the setback of Paul Walsh’s seventh-minute goal, Cork had the deficit cut to the minimum by the 18th minute.
Corbett had a goal shot blocked by the body of Dan Murphy. In the subsequent action, Niall Hartnett and Aodhán Ó Luasa put through Corbett for another green flag opportunity. This time, the crossbar denied the Clyda Rovers corner-forward.
And when Sean McDonnell dropped a pointed effort short, one wondered if Cork would ever get back on level terms.
On 23 minutes, Corbett did just that, also edging them in front for the first time approaching the break.
Kerry could have had a second goal if Patrick D’Arcy offloaded to the unmarked Paul Walsh in first-half stoppage time.
It didn’t materialise, although Walsh did have the final say of the half when kicking Kerry’s first score in 16 minutes to tie matters.
Their unbeaten run extends to 26. The drive for five continues.
P Walsh (1-3, 0-2 frees); R Ó Beaglaoích (0-2 frees), D McCarthy, J O’Connor (0-2 each); D Rahilly, J Kennelly (0-1 each).
C Corbett (1-4); A Ó Luasa (0-4, 0-4 frees); N Hartnett, J Kelleher (0-1 each).
M Kelliher (Glenflesk); K O’Donoghue (Legion), C Moriarty (Annascaul), C Flannery (Dingle); D McCarthy (Kenmare), D Murphy (Rathmore), D Mangan (Laune Rangers); P O’Shea (Kilcummin), D Lyne (Legion); D Rahilly (Rathmore), P D’Arcy (Glenflesk), K Falvey (Annascaul); J Kennelly (Ballydonoghue), P Walsh (Brosna), R Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht).
J O’Connor (Beaufort) for Rahilly (40 mins); D Dineen for Kennelly, S Quilter (Austin Stacks) for D’Arcy (both 55).
D Doody (Buttevant); D Connolly (Glanworth), D Buckley (Newcestown), C O’Donovan (Glanmire); F Cronin (Cullen), D Phelan (Aghada), E Nation (Nemo Rangers); N Hartnett (Douglas), J Harte (Douglas); H Murphy (Éire Óg), D O’Sullivan (St Finbarr’s), E Cooke (Ballincollig); S McDonnell (Mallow), A Ó Luasa (Naomh Abán), C Corbett (Clyda Rovers).
M O’Neill (Buttevant) for McDonnell (27); J Kelleher (Canovee) for O’Sullivan (46); G Carey (Buttevant) for Harte (47); R Lombard (Ballyhooley) for Hartnett (55); J O’Shea (Urhan) for O’Donovan (57).
S Lonergan (Tipperary).