Kerry got a dream start with a goal direct from the throw-in when Thomas Hickey beat Cork keeper Chris Kelly with 20 seconds gone on the clock. Evan Cronin added a point from the kick-out and the large Cork following in the stand must have feared the worst.
But Cork did not panic and after Seamus Hickey’s attempt for came off the post, Eoghan McSweeney got Cork’s opening point. In fact for the rest of the half, Cork dominated the middle third.
Cork added points from Seamus Hickey and Anthony O’Connor to close the gap before Niall O’Shea restored Kerry’s two-point advantage. Andrew Barry forced Kelly into a good save in the 8th minute but Cork levelled by the 12th minute with points from Jerry and Anthony O’Connor.
Evan Cronin restored Kerry’s lead but Cork were now on top and the O’Connors and Seamus Hickey ensured Cork led, 0-11 to 1-7, at the interval.
Cork looked in the driving seat of this gripping contest three minutes into the second period after a quick-fire goal by wingback John Cronin and a Jerry O’Connor free left them five points clear, 1-12 to 1-7.
Kerry’s 45th title at junior level looked in jeopardy but they responded with points from man-of-the-match Evan Cronin and a Daniel Daly free. Jerry O’Connor replied as Cork had a four-point lead in the 38th minute.
However, Cork did not register another score for 17 minutes. Kerry assumed control at midfield with Kieran Murphy playing a captain’s role while Paudie Clifford, the older brother of David, caused havoc in the Cork defence.
Clifford was hauled down for a penalty but Kelly saved Thomas Hickey’s attempt. It galvanised Kerry, though, as Clifford set up Daniel Daly to find the Cork net and level the contest.
Cork were tiring and Kerry scores followed from Evan Cronin (2), Daniel Daly (free), and substitute Chris Farley. Cork ended their drought through Michael Vaughan and, during six minutes of injury time, Killian O’Hanlon added a point but it wasn’t enough.
Kerry face Kildare in the All-Ireland semi-final on July 11.
D Daly (1-4, 3 frees), T Hickey (1-2), E Cronin (0-5), K Murphy, N O’Shea and C Farley (0-1 each)
J O’Connor (0-5, 3 frees), J Cronin (1-0), S Hickey and A O’Connor (1 free) 0-2 each, B Daly, K O’Hanlon, BT O’Sullivan E McSweeney, D Dineen and M Vaughan (0-1 each)
D Ó Sé (Ballydonoghue); T Wallace (Ardfert), D Donohue (Spa), P O’Sullivan (Valentia); P Clifford (Templenoe), A Barry (Na Gaeil), S Moloney (John Mitchels); K Murphy (Kilcummin), R Murphy (Beaufort); E Cronin (Spa), P Clifford (Fossa), L O’Donoghue (Glenflesk); T Hickey (Castleisland Desmonds), D Daly (St Mary’s), N O’Shea (Dromid Pearses).
P O’Connor (Gneeveguilla) for P Clifford (40), C Fitzgerald (Churchill for L O’Donoghue (43), C Farley (Dromid Pearses) for N O’Shea (56), B Crowley (Templenoe) for T Hickey (63),
C Kelly (Éire Óg); P Clancy (Firmly), P Murphy (Bandon), D O’Regan (St Vincent’s); K Cremin (Boherbue), B Daly (Newmarket), J Cronin (Lisgoold); K O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), BT O’Sullivan (Garnish); S Hickey (Rockchapel), C Vaughan (Iveleary), E McSweeney (Knocknagree); J O’Connor (Boherbue), D Dineen (Cill na Martra), A O’Connor (Knocknagree).
R Harkin (Mallow) for B Terry O’Sullivan (45), M Vaughan (Millstreet) for A O’ Connor (48) D Cremin (St Michael’s) for J O’Connor (57) , C Dennehy (St Finbarr’s) for B Daly ( 57)