Munster SFC Final Kerry 1-23 Cork 0-15
There wasn’t an element of this game where Kerry were inferior. OK, they were shy on the wide count but that hardly detracted from a performance that could have been outstanding if Kerry truly wanted it to be.
That Kerry by the end were playing within themselves and yet managed to record their biggest Munster SFC victory over Cork in 35 years spoke volumes of the gulf between the sides. But for Donncha O’Connor’s late consolation free, the margin would have matched the 12 that separated the counties in the 1982 provincial final replay.
Not that this group under Éamonn Fitzmaurice will be too worried that they didn’t succeed in doing so. What matters most to these players is exactly who will fill the starting positions on July 29 given how well most of the substitutes did upon their introductions.
It wasn’t that Donnchadh Walsh had been poor in the opening half — he did brilliantly in palming off the ball that led to James O’Donoghue’s third-minute point — and his duel with Seán Powter would have been considered a draw at half-time.
And yet Walsh’s replacement, Stephen O’Brien, couldn’t have put his hand higher to begin the All-Ireland quarter-final, scoring two points inside the first three minutes and adding a third in additional time.
Anthony Maher was the better of the two starting midfielders but it was he who made way for Jack Barry. Kevin McCarthy didn’t do much wrong either. However, he will appreciate that Johnny Buckley made a few telling contributions having been introduced for him.
Pre-Fitzmaurice, Kerry used to worry how the gap between the Munster final and the All-Ireland series might dull their senses, but such is the level of competition in training that he will have no worries in that regard.
“We will meet up this week during the week,” he said. “We will let the lads play their county championship and then we will go and get ready.
We have three weeks coming into the game and be ready for Croke Park. The qualifiers are fraught with threatening opposition this year so whoever we get in that quarter-final will be a good test and it’s something to look forward to now.”
It might seem disrespectful to Cork to discuss Kerry’s next challengers but if they had put up more of a fight then there would be no need. Kerry, for all their brilliance, only turned it on in patches and yet their third gear was far too good for Cork.
Admittedly, they floored it at the start of each half, going four points up to no-score in the opening four minutes and then doubling their half-time lead (0-11 to 0-7) to eight points inside the same time-span at the outset of the second half.
Nobody epitomised their urgency more than O’Donoghue who looked unmarkable at times, but on other occasions it appeared as if Kerry were bored with what Cork presented in front of them.
They were so much more positive than Cork who pondered and deliberated and racked up seven first-half wides to Kerry’s none.
Ian Maguire, who proved a handful if only for the first half, had a goal chance in the 12th minute but seemed to panic when he approached Brian Kelly — the ball was eventually cleared.
Three consecutive Cork points, two from Niall Coakley, brought Cork to within three points of Kerry by the 25th minute. That came during Kerry’s biggest barren spell, all of 10 minutes, although Ken O’Halloran had to spring to deny Paul Geaney.
Cork struggled to get the ball past the halfway line for the opening five minutes of the second half as O’Brien registered two points and Moran boomed one over after O’Halloran lost the ball having advanced past his 45m line.
O’Donoghue had a shot snuffed out and kicked Kerry’s first wide in the 42nd minute, a couple minutes after Tomás Clancy blazed a goal shot wide, while Paul Kerrigan was also denied a goal.
Fionn Fitzgerald’s head injury held up play for well over five minutes but Kerry soon resumed control.
The result was a formality by the time Kerry’s lead jumped to double scores, 1-19 to 0-11, when Kieran Donaghy knocked down a Murphy ball into Geaney’s path. He was slightly fortunate but his momentum was enough to help him guide the ball past O’Halloran.
And that was certainly that.
That Kerry’s fifth consecutive Munster title came at the expense of Cork is hardly an irrelevance — Kerry would hardly grow tired of catching them — but were they a fish they’d be put back in the sea.
Scorers for Kerry:
P. Geaney (1-5, 0-1 free); J. O’Donoghue (0-7, 4 frees); S. O’Brien (0-3); M. Geaney (0-2, 1 45); A. Maher, K. Donaghy, D. Moran, P. Murphy, B.J. Keane, S. Enright (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork:
D. O’Connor (0-6, 4 frees); N. Coakley (frees); M. Collins (1 free), L. Connolly (1 free) (0-2 each); I. Maguire, Tomás Clancy, P. Kerrigan (0-1 each).
B. Kelly 7; F. Fitzgerald (c) 7, M. Griffin 8, S. Enright 7; P. Crowley 7, T. Morley 7, P. Murphy 8; D. Moran 6, A. Maher 8; M. Geaney 9, K. McCarthy 7, D. Walsh 7; P. Geaney 8, K. Donaghy 7, J. O’Donoghue 9.
Subs for Kerry:
S. O’Brien 8 for D. Walsh (h-t); J. Buckley 7 for K. McCarthy (41); K. Young 7 for F. Fitzgerald (blood, 50-ft); J. Barry 7 for A. Maher (58); B.J. Keane 6 for J. O’Donoghue (63); D. O’Sullivan 6 for K. Donaghy (65); J. Lyne 6 for M. Geaney (66).
K. O’Halloran 6; K. Crowley 6, J. O’Sullivan 6, M Shields 5; S. Powter 7, J. Loughrey 6, Tomás Clancy 6; R. Deane 5, I. Maguire 7; A. Walsh 6, M. Collins 6, K. O’Driscoll 6; P. Kerrigan 6, N. Coakley 6, L. Connolly 6.
Subs for Cork:
A. O’Connor for R. Deane (blood, 30-h-t); D. O’Connor 7 for N. Coakley (inj h-t); A. O’Connor 5 for R. Deane (inj 39); C. O’Driscoll 6 for M. Shields (inj 41); M. Hurley 6 for K. O’Driscoll (46); E. Cadogan 6 for J. O’Sullivan (black), S. Cronin 6 for J. Loughrey (inj) (both 64).
P. Neilan (Roscommon).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved