Kerry gain sweet revenge with largest-ever Munster final victory over Cork

Kerry struck four goals after a promising Cork start
Kerry gain sweet revenge with largest-ever Munster final victory over Cork

Kerry’s Sean O’Shea celebrates scoring his side’s third goal. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Kerry 4-22 Cork 1-9

History came thumping down on Cork in Killarney as an avenging Kerry administered a butchering so severe it has carved its way into the annals.

Until Peter Keane brings his team to the county’s 38th All-Ireland SFC title, there will be unease in the Kingdom but this horrific beating inflicted on the neighbours will go some way to making them forget what happened on November 8, 2020.

It is going to take something as awesome for many of these Cork players to erase their memories of this day, which started so brightly for them but finished so brutal. Four points for three quarters, almost half an hour passing between two scores, was an abysmal return that is bound to have a psychological impact.

Here, Kerry harnessed all the pain caused by Mark Keane’s additional-time goal. Afterwards, David Moran spoke of the defeat as being “definitely something that was on our minds”, but you imagine it wasn’t spoken of too much. To articulate their hurt anywhere other than the field would have cheapened it.

Perhaps, had Jack Barry been binned for a cynical foul on Seán Meehan in the 11th minute when Cork were in the ascendancy, the margin may not have been as yawning. But Kerry’s relentlessness was always going to be hard to subdue.

After fumbles and foibles cost them at least 1-2 in the opening quarter, Kerry dominated Cork to the point of mockery. Up 4-14 to 1-7 after Paul Geaney’s second goal in the 48th minute, Adrian Spillane and Brian Ó Beaglaoich were making blocks on Colm O’Callaghan and Brian Hurley. There would be no mercy.

Kerry’s Paul Geaney celebrates scoring his side’s second goal. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Kerry’s Paul Geaney celebrates scoring his side’s second goal. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

It had been Ó Beaglaoich’s solo run goal in the 33rd minute that gave Kerry the platform for this emphatic win. Helped by decoy runners, the corner back ran 70m before stabbing the ball the far side of Micheál Aodh Martin.

The Cork goalkeeper had been equal to three Kerry shots prior to that goal, the first three-pointer coming at the other end when Paul Murphy was turned over and the ball was moved quickly downfield where Ian Maguire fed Brian Hurley and he was able to round Jason Foley to beat Shane Ryan.

During that rough patch for Kerry, when coughing up possession seemed to be converting immediately to score concessions, Paudie Clifford kept things ticking over. Seán O’Shea became more influential as the game developed but Clifford’s steadiness prevailed throughout.

It was important as his younger brother David was finding Seán Meehan to be a leech of a marker. Coming into the game, Clifford hadn’t been recording hefty tallies against Cork in the championship but a 61st-minute free was a paltry return for a footballer of his quality.

Meehan was one Cork player who could leave Fitzgerald Stadium with his head held high. At half-time, it seemed like many of them would even if they trailed by five points, 1-12 to 1-7. It was a slightly flattering lead for Kerry as much as they had twigged Cork’s kick-outs and outscored them 1-8 to 0-2 in the second quarter.

The loss of Martin to injury was a blow but Cork threatened for a goal in the 39th minute only for Ian Maguire to receive a shuddering shoulder and Cian Kiely to sky his kick. It was Kerry’s turn to translate a let-off into a goal and Geaney, receiving an O’Shea pass, calmly dispatched the ball low past Mark White.

Cork’s mountain rose to double digits when Jack Barry pointed in the 45th minute and a minute later, O’Shea turned from provider to goalscorer after Paudie Clifford moved into corner-forward, turned Cian Kiely and squared the ball.

If the curtains were drawn at that stage, they were tied together in the 49th minute when Geaney slotted in a second following a mix-up and a driving Gavin White run from a Cork kick-out. An O’Shea free made it 4-15 to 1-7 at the second water break.

Ian Maguire ended 28 minutes without a Cork score in the 58th minute but later dragged a goal shot wide while Kerry’s number of scorers increased, David Clifford and substitute Tadhg Morley joining the party.

The crevasse was 20 points when Killian Spillane slid over his second point in the last minute of normal time. Frustration got the better of Ruairí Deane when he struck Tommy Walsh, but the former Australian Rules player was able to recover to send over the last point of the game.

This was so far from the test some Kerry supporters might have hoped Cork would give them to steel them for an All-Ireland semi-final next month, but at least the players demonstrated to them that they too grieved what happened last year.

What was also interesting was Moran’s remarks that he has never been in a squad with as much team spirit as this group. “It’s just a close-knit squad,” he offered. That’s a startling difference from the conjecture that followed the 2020 championship exit when it was claimed some of the senior players were unhappy with the set-up. As Geaney later explained, that talk was idle.

As much as bookmakers have now made them All-Ireland favourites on the back of this drubbing, Keane and the likes of Moran will dismiss that talk too. They will have to draw deeper from their reserves of hurt to justify that tag but this latest retaliation makes that scenario more believable.

The 60-second report

IT MATTERED:

Kerry’s championship quarter. Outscoring Cork 3-3 to no score in that period after half-time, their three goals coming in 12 minutes, their revenge came swift and striking.

CAN'T IGNORE:

What odds on David Clifford not scoring from play in a 22-point victory for his team? Seán Meehan did a stunning job against him and may have given future markers some ideas but a smarting Clifford heading to Croke Park is not a major complaint for Kerry.

GOOD DAY:

All will feel right in Kerry after inflicting a defeat on Cork that will almost feel like two given the comprehensiveness of the result and the fate that befell them nine months ago.

BAD DAY:

Cork turned up for one quarter, two-thirds of their scores coming in that first 18 minutes. What followed was ever so chastening.

PHYSIO ROOM:

An injured Micheál Aodh Martin had to be replaced at half-time, confirmed Ronan McCarthy. Diarmuid O’Connor also made way early on having picked up a knock while Peter Keane added they are working to get Dara Moynihan fit for the All-Ireland semi-final.

SIDELINE SMARTS:

Tenacity defined Cork’s defending in the opening quarter as they clogged the middle but Kerry began to exert their pressing force on the opposing kick-out in the second quarter. For all the criticism of their over-defensiveness last November, here they committed too many players forward early on.

BEST ON SHOW:

Take your pick from two-thirds of the Kerry team. Paudie Clifford and Seán O’Shea were their best forwards, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Mike Breen, and Gavin White their best backs, while David Moran was an authority in the middle. Seán Meehan’s individual display against David Clifford was noteworthy.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE:

Barry Cassidy looked to develop the play throughout - we make it that he awarded six scoreable frees - although he should have sin-binned Jack Barry in the 11th minute. The red card for Ruairí Deane was warranted.

NEXT UP:

Kerry return to Croke Park for the first time in Championship in 23 months when they face Monaghan or Tyrone in an All-Ireland semi-final on August 14 or 15.

Scorers for Kerry: S. O’Shea (1-6, 0-3 frees); P. Geaney (2-1); B. Ó Beaglaoich (1-0); P. Clifford (0-3); T. O’Sullivan, J. Barry, K. Spillane (0-2 each); D. Moran, D. Clifford (free), S. O’Brien, T. Morley, M. Breen, T. Walsh (0-1 each).

Scorers for Cork: B. Hurley (1-3, 0-1 free); M. Hurley (0-2); D. Dineen (mark), B. Harnett, L. Connolly, I. Maguire (0-1 each).

KERRY: S. Ryan; B. Ó Beaglaoich, J. Foley, T. O’Sullivan; M. Breen, P. Murphy (c), G. White; D. Moran, D. O’Connor; J. Barry, S. O’Shea, S. O’Brien; D. Clifford, P. Geaney, P. Clifford.

Subs for Kerry: K. Spillane for D. O’Connor (inj 18); T. Walsh for S. O’Brien (temp 45-57); G. O’Sullivan for B. Ó Beaglaoich (temp 53-58); M. Burns for D. Clifford (temp 55-58); A. Spillane for J. Barry (56); T. Walsh for P. Geaney (57); G. Crowley for T. O’Sullivan (64); T. Morley for G. White (66).

CORK: M.A. Martin; K. O’Donovan, K. Flahive, S. Meehan; C. Kiely, S. Powter, M. Taylor; I. Maguire (c), B. Hartnett; J. O’Rourke, L. Connolly, R. Deane; D. Dineen, B. Hurley, M. Hurley.

Subs for Cork: M. White for M.A. Martin (h-t); M. Collins for L. Connolly (41); C. O’Callaghan for D. Dineen (43); K. O’Driscoll for M. Hurley (47); K. Crowley for K. O’Donovan (51).

Red card: R. Deane (70+4, straight).

Referee: B. Cassidy (Derry).

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