Kerry 1-16 Cork 0-17
Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one before — this script is familiar: Kerry lead by a distance at half-time, are reeled in by Cork, only for the hosts to wriggle themselves off the hook.
Anyone among the 36,370 at Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday who were there two years ago would have recognised the starting similarities with what transpired in the 2011 Munster final.
Seven points up at half-time on this occasion, Kerry had previously been eight to the good at the break but each time racked up nine-point advantages in the second half.
Cork cut the margin to two in the dying minutes of this encounter, one less than they managed in the counties’ last provincial decider, but again they were left counting the cost of a late unconverted goal chance.
For John Miskella in 2011, read Brian Hurley 2013, the U21 full-forward’s injury-time shot blocked by Brendan Kealy’s shoulder.
“I didn’t know too much about it, to be honest,” conceded the Kerry goalkeeper afterwards. “It was just a matter of standing up and he just hit me, it was just one of those things.”
Once more, Kerry were the better team by a stretch in the first half, leading 1-10 to 0-6 at the break yesterday, but invited Cork onto them in the final 20 minutes.
Alan O’Connor’s desperately-needed introduction to midfield and the running of Hurley and Ciarán Sheehan in the inside forward line transformed Cork into a cohesive unit that they looked nothing like in the opening 35 minutes.
Kerry went a worrying 18 minutes without a score as Cork scored six points without reply before a 50-metre plus free by Bryan Sheehan stemmed the bleeding.
Darran O’Sullivan, having cut through Cork’s middle, had the chance to set up a killer goal for Kerry in the 68th minute but was too ponderous in offloading a ball that may have put a team-mate through on either shoulder.
James Loughrey and Hurley shot over scores and the margin was two before Peter Crowley coolly finished a well-worked move to give the home support a chance to exhale and mop their brows.
Hurley’s chance followed and Daniel Goulding blasted over the resultant 45 in the last minute of allocated injury time when he may have better advised kick it short in the hope of a goal to level things.
Cork, for a second time in three years, were left counting the cost of leaving it all too late and cursing a tepid first half. They looked incorrectly set up although it was probably harsh that two of their U21 players were sacrificed at half-time.
The opening 21 minutes were even enough, Kerry leading 0-5 to 0-4, but Cork managed just two points for the rest of the half as Kerry unloaded 1-4 in eight dynamic minutes.
James O’Donoghue was enjoying himself, kicking his second score in the 24th minute on the end of a cute Colm Cooper pass, but a minute later was guilty of not taking a better option of Donnchadh Walsh riding shotgun on his left shoulder when there was a goal a-begging. O’Donoghue pulled his shot wide, one of eight first-half Kerry wides and 13 overall. His marker Eoin Cadogan looked nothing like the defender that was a deserved All Star nominee last year for his thorough man-marking prowess.
Just before that goal chance, the Cork half-back line went AWOL as Darran O’Sullivan was left in metres of space to slot over a score.
Goulding hit back with a free but Cooper found the net in the 29th minute after Declan O’Sullivan was given too much space by his new marker Cadogan to set him up.
Cork were reeling by this stage and were making several positional changes to stop the haemorrhaging, one being Graham Canty moving back to the left wing from midfield.
Loughrey remained on Cooper, against whom the Antrim native had a decent game, but scores from Galvin and then Declan O’Sullivan pushed Kerry seven ahead, 1-9 to 0-5.
Donncha O’Connor and Kealy frees cancelled each other out prior to the interval and when O’Donoghue got Kerry motoring again in the second half, a rout looked on the cards.
With Alan O’Connor working frenetically to lift the troops, Loughrey thumped over his second and then Cooper was unfortunate to be called up for a free which Goulding duly struck over.
Two Cooper frees, following fouls on the ultra-industrious pair of Walsh and O’Donoghue, and a successful Marc Ó Sé effort widened the gap to nine by the 48th minute.
Whether Kerry switched off or not, Cork bossed the possession and territory stakes until the tight finish when Sheehan, Crowley and Kealy’s composure told.
Just like 2011, it was neither a perfect victory or defeat, throwing up more questions than answers about both teams and devoid of the brutal intensity that typified Cork-Kerry games when the pair were in their pomp. There was nothing yesterday to signify either should be talked in the glowing terms being used about Donegal, Dublin and Mayo. Nobody aims to peak in July but then neither want to be so rough and smooth either.
Scorers for Kerry: C Cooper 1-3 (0-3 frees); J O’Donoghue 0-3; Declan O’Sullivan 0-2; J Buckley (free), A Maher, Darran O’Sullivan, P Galvin, B Kealy (free), M Ó Sé, B Sheehan (free), P Crowley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: D Goulding 0-7 (five frees, one 45); D O’Connor (one free), J Loughrey, B Hurley 0-2 each; J O’Rourke, P Kerrigan, C Sheehan, A Walsh 0-1 each.
Subs for Kerry: K Donaghy for D Walsh (56); F Fitzgerald for T Ó Sé (58); E Brosnan for K Young (61); B Sheehan for J Buckley (63).
Subs for Cork: A O’Connor for D Cahalane (35+2); Thomas Clancy for E Cadogan, P O’Neill for J O’Rourke (half-time); C Sheehan for D O’Connor (55); M Collins for F Goold (64).
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo) KERRY: B Kealy; P Crowley, M Ó Sé, M Griffin; K Young, S Enright, T Ó Sé; A Maher, J Buckley; D Walsh, C Cooper, P Galvin; Darran O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, J O’Donoghue. CORK: K O’Halloran; E Cadogan, M Shields, P Kissane; N O’Leary, J Loughrey, D Cahalane; G Canty, A Walsh; F Goold, P Kerrigan, J O’Rourke; D Goulding, B Hurley, D O’Connor.
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