Cork and Kerry also met in the curtain raiser in the Munster Minor Football Final. When the sides met earlier in the season, Kerry had 16 points to spare at the finish. On this occasion it was a lot closer as Cork played superbly throughout, but a strong Kerry finish saw them hold out to claim their 7th Munster title in a row.
The sides were level when Cork captain Conor Corbett scored his fourth point of the game in the 59th minute and the Rebels – beaten by 16 points by their neighbours in the round-robin section – dreamed of a first title since 2010. However, Kerry dug deep and took the lead again thanks to a point from sub Emmet O’Shea before captain Jack O’Connor and Darragh Lynch added insurance scores.
Having led by two points at half-time, Kerry conceded the first score of the second half but struck for a third goal through Kevin Goulding on 37 minutes. Their lead was never more than four points though as Cork stuck with them with team captain Corbett leading their charge.
A free from Cork’s Patrick Campbell left it 3-11 to 2-11 with ten minutes remaining and they harnessed momentum with two fine points from sub Michael O’Neill before Corbett tied the game. It proved to be their last score though as Kerry pushed on in the final stages to make sure of the win.
The first half was a frenzied affair. Kerry led by 0-3 to 0-1 early on but Cork had the lead as midfielder Kelan Scannell goaled in the sixth minute, a cool finish following a nice interplay from Hugh Murphy, Campbell and dual star Jack Cahalane. While Kerry’s Dylan Geaney equalised, Cork struck again, this time with some good fortune as Campbell’s low ball across goal rebounded off a Kingdom defender and ended in the net for an own goal.
Gearóid Hassett might have had a Kerry goal but he was denied by Neil Lordan’s block and then Kevin Goulding’s follow-up was saved by Aaron O’Brien as Cork survived. Cork moved four ahead when Ryan O’Donovan pointed on 19 minutes, 2-4 to 0-6 the lead, but in the closing stages of the first half, Kerry upped things again. After a point from Seán O’Brien, they had a goal from Colin Crowley, set up by Dylan Geaney and O’Connor put them in front. O’Donovan’s free levelled at 2-5 to 1-8, but Geaney notched Kerry’s second goal on 27 minutes, set up by Goulding.
Cork corner-back Seán Andrews left two in it at the break, with Corbett reducing the deficit further on the resumption, but Kerry remained dangerous and it took an O’Brien save to deny Crowley on 36 before the third goal did arrive a minute later, Geaney setting up Goulding. It put them four ahead, but Cork never allowed matters to become a procession. Cork continued to chase the game and while they did manage to draw level they experience of the Kingdom youngsters again came to the fore with those three late points giving Kerry the win.
Cork however can feel proud of their effort and with a bit more preparation, they will be ready for a cut off the Ulster champions as their season is still very much alive. Bobby O’ Dwyer’s charges certainly played plenty of good football and have really closed the gap on Kerry. If they can show further improvement they could still be in the all -Ireland shake up.
Scorers for Kerry: Jack O’Connor 0-5 (0-2 45, 0-2 frees), Dylan Geaney 1-2, Kevin Goulding, Colin Crowley 1-1 each, Gearóid Hassett 0-2, Darragh Lynch, Seán O’Brien, Emmet O’Shea 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Ryan O’Donovan 0-4 (0-3 frees), Conor Corbett 0-4 , Kelan Scannell 1-0, Michael O’Neill 0-2, Patrick Campbell (free), Seán Andrews, Hugh Murphy, Adam Walsh Murphy 0-1 each (1-0 own goal).
KERRY: Devon Burns; Kieran O’Sullivan, Alan Dineen, Luke Chester; Eoghan O’Sullivan, Adam Curran, Seán O’Brien; Joseph Linehan, Ronan Collins; Colin Crowley, Jack O’Connor, Darragh Lynch; Dylan Geaney, Gearóid Hassett, Kevin Goulding. Subs: Emmet O’Shea for Goulding (46), Dylan O’Callaghan for Crowley (47), Jason Kerins for O’Brien (49, injured), Terry Sparling for Dineen (59, black card), Tomás Ó hAiniféin for Lynch (60).
CORK: Aaron O’Brien; Seán Andrews, Daniel Linehan, Joseph O’Shea; Tadhg O’Donoghue, Neil Lordan, Daniel Peet; Jack Lawton, Kelan Scannell; Hugh Murphy, Conor Corbett, Adam Walsh-Murphy; Ryan O’Donovan, Patrick Campbell, Jack Cahalane. Subs: Keith O’Driscoll for Walsh-Murphy (24, injured), Michael O’Neill for O’Shea (half-time), Alan O’Hare for O’Donovan (49), Shane Aherne for Campbell (55), Nathan Gough for Andrews (60).
Referee: Seán Lonergan (Tipperary)