Kerry’s underage factory of talent didn’t stay down for too long, John Sugrue’s U20s producing a scintillating second-half showing to wrestle back the Munster crown from their neighbours.
It hadn’t looked promising for the hosts at the break. They were fortunate to be only four in arrears, even if they had a goal chance swept off the white paint at the very last second.
Kerry’s forward talismen weren’t motoring, while those wearing green and gold out around the middle were coming off second best in the battle for possession off restarts at either end.
What changed in the second period?
Well, firstly, Paul O’Shea was moved from full-forward to midfield and he almost single-handedly ended Cork’s dominance of this sector.
Closer to goal, Ruaidhri Ó Beaglaoich delivered a masterclass. And he needed to because with Paul Walsh and Killian Falvey called ashore towards the end of the third quarter, Kerry had to make for the finish line without their semi-final top-scorers.
Ó Beaglaoich was superb in stepping up to the place.
He was near unmarkable in the second period, winning three frees, one of which he converted, claiming and converting a mark, while also adding two from open play.
His final tally of 0-5 was exactly the difference between the teams at the finish, the hosts completing a nine-point second-half swing.
Cork managed just three second-half points, a return that was never going to be good enough to see the county retain the provincial title.
The third quarter was owned by Kerry, John Sugrue’s charges outscoring their opponents by 0-6 to 0-1 to move 0-11 to 1-7 in front.
It was here where Ó Beaglaoich rose to prominence, earning two frees, while also throwing over the lead score when claiming a mark on the 20-metre line.
Mark Cronin was Cork’s sole contributor on the scoresheet for the first 25 minutes of the second period and it was the latter of his long-range second-half points which levelled matters at 1-8 to 0-11 13 minutes from the end.
But Kerry powered home, two three-in-a-row bursts more than sufficient to dethrone their rivals and gain revenge for last year’s Munster final mauling.
The visitors had led 1-6 to 0-5 at the break.
In truth, though, they should have commanded a slightly more substantial interval lead.
Keith Ricken’s young charges stuttered with their kicking early on, squandering five point-scoring opportunities inside the opening 10 minutes.
A 30-metre free taken by Cronin came back down off the post, with subsequent efforts from Blake Murphy, Jack Murphy and Cronin all dropping short.
Kerry were that bit more economical, the Kingdom moving into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead 12 minutes in thanks to white flags from Ó Beaglaoich, Patrick Darcy, and Killian Falvey.
They should have delivered the game’s opening goal after a quarter of an hour, Ó Beaglaoich taking advantage of a slip by Colm O’Shea to move inside the cover. The corner-forward fisted possession across the square to the waiting Darcy, but he was far too casual in getting his kick away, the ball stopped on the goal line by David Buckley.
Cork were enjoying the greater share of possession and they edged back in front courtesy of Jack Murphy and a lovely kick off the left by Cronin.
The somewhat subdued Paul Walsh did bring Kerry level at 0-4 apiece, but then arrived Black Murphy onto stage.
Last year’s centre-forward, having been most quiet for the opening 25 minutes, delivered 1-1 in less than 60 seconds to turn the tie in Cork’s favour. The goal, it must be noted, stemmed from Aodhán Ó Luasa’s turning over of Dylan Casey, with Murphy meandering his way around ‘keeper Marc Kelliher before rolling the ball home. The Cork joint-captain would also kick the last point of the half, his five-minute 1-2 contribution sending Cork back down the tunnel four to the good.
But their second-half effort paled in comparison to what they had churned out in the opening period. Kerry’s second-half effort, too, bore no resemblance to their first-half endeavours.
R Ó Beaglaoich (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 mark); P Walsh (0-3, 0-3 frees); S Quilter (0-1 free), P Darcy (0-2 each); D Lyne, K Falvey, P O'Shea, S Keane, S Horan (0-1 each).
B Murphy (1-3); M Cronin (0-4, 0-1 free); F Herlihy, J Murphy (0-1 each).
M Kelliher (Glenflesk); J McCarthy (Kenmare Shamrocks), O Fitzgerald (Gneeveguilla), D McCarthy (Kenmare Shamrocks); L Brosnan (Castleisland Desmonds), D Casey (Austin Stacks), S O’Brien (Beaufort); D Lyne (Legion), M O’Gara (Austin Stacks); P Walsh (Brosna), P Darcy (Glenflesk), K Falvey (Annascaul); S Horan (Scartaglen), P O’Shea (Kilcummin), R Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht).
E Horan (Scartaglen) for Fitzgerald (HT); S Keane (Listowel Emmets) for Walsh (44); S Quilter (Austin Stacks) for Falvey (46); S O’Connell (Cordal) for S Horan (48); D Geaney (Dingle) for Darcy (54).
C O’Leary (Douglas); C O'Shea (Kilshannig), D O'Mahony (Knocknagree), D Phelan (Aghada); D O'Connell (Kanturk), D Buckley (Newcestown), B Foley (Bantry Blues); J Lawton (Argideen Rangers), B Hayes (St Finbarr’s); J Murphy (Éire Óg), A Ó Luasa (Naomh Abán), E O’Hanlon (Kilshannig); M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), B Murphy (St Vincent’s), F Herlihy (Dohenys).
B Lynch (Douglas) for Phelan (28); C Corbett (Clyda Rovers) for Ó Luasa (HT, inj); B Curtin (Kilshannig) for Lawton (39); D Hayes (Carbery Rangers) for B Hayes (52); C Russell (Douglas) for Herlihy (59).
S Lonergan (Tipperary).