Those results form almost half of the Kingdom’s 12-game unbeaten record in the province since Fitzmaurice took over from Jack O’Connor.
Yet, it was only four years ago that James O’Donoghue told a story of how locals in Killarney were so pessimistic about Kerry’s chances of beating their age-old rivals that they were refusing to make the spin down the N22.
“You ask if they’re going to the game and they’ll say: ‘Nah, sure why would I go down to see them get bate?’” he recalled after Kerry dismissed Cork by double scores.
Freak, fluke or simply fortitude, Fionn Fitzgerald’s late point in 2015 was the difference in keeping this Kerry run ’s going, but it sure is impressive and, even with so many newbies taking the field this weekend, recent history will provide a fillip.
So what trends can we extract from this period of Kerry domination, their most enduring since 1982, when they extended their SFC unbeaten run over Cork to 10 matches?
Kerry have been ahead in all five matches at half-time: 2017, 0-11 to 0-7; 2015, 0-8 to 1-4 and 1-9 to 1-5; 2014, 0-13 to 0-5 and 2013, 1-10 to 0-6. They have won three second halves, the ‘defeats’ coming in the drawn 2015 final and the 2013 win.
Johnny Buckley, Peter Crowley, Kieran Donaghy, Shane Enright, Anthony Maher, James O’Donoghue, Donnchadh Walsh and Killian Young featured in all five matches; Buckley (four starts), Crowley (three), Donaghy (three), Enright (five), Maher (four), O’Donoghue (five), Walsh (five) and Young (four).
Kerry’s average winning margin across the six finals is six points, their lowest scoring total coming in at 11 and their best the 24-point haul in Páirc Uí Chaoimh four years ago.
O’Donoghue appears to love playing Cork more than any other county. He might have had his travails with his shoulder in recent times, yet he has not failed to score from play in his seven Munster SFC battles with the Rebels (five during Fitzmaurice’s reign), scoring 1-26 and 20 points from play. Paul Geaney also thrives against Cork, hitting 2-12 in their last four SFC meetings, a handsome 2-10 from play.
Of the 5-89 Kerry has scored against Cork across the five fixtures, 4-62 has come from open play. An indictment of the Rebels or a credit to the Kingdom, it is an exorbitant amount, considering this is held up as a rivalry.
Remember when O’Connor mentioned he couldn’t trust Paul Galvin to keep his cool in the tempest of a Cork-Kerry game?
Fire and brimstone used to define these affairs, but Kerry haven’t suffered a straight red card since 2009, when Galvin and Noel O’Leary were sent to the line.
That’s 11 SFC meetings ago, though Donaghy and Tadhg Kennelly were fortunate in the meantime. Stephen O’Brien was the last Kerry player to be dismissed for a second yellow offence, which came at the end of the Munster final replay three years ago. John Hayes saw red for Cork in 2014.
Excluding the newcomers, of the team that beat Clare last month, five (when playing) don’t know what it is to lose to Cork in senior championship: Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Jack Barry, Stephen O’Brien and Geaney.
Kerry’s last two SFC defeats to Cork have come in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, when they managed just 0-12 each time, but it was also the losing score there four years ago, when Cork were overrun.
It will be next year before he is able to achieve it, but Shane Murphy will hope to be the first goalkeeper under Fitzmaurice to face Cork in successive seasons. In 2013 and ’15, there was Brendan Kealy and, in ’14 and ’17, there was Brian Kelly.
Ciarán Branagan is the man in the middle for Saturday night, following Paddy Neilan last year, Maurice Deegan (replay) and Pádraig Hughes in ’15 and Cormac Reilly in ’14. Not since David Coldrick took charge of the 2011 and ’12 Munster finals has an official had such
familiarity with this fixture.