Pairc Uí Chaoimh was the venue on Saturday evening for the meeting of Cork and Kerry in the Munster Senior football final. Cork had a number of late changes from the team that beat Limerick, while Kerry had four players playing in their first senior final.
Kerry who were going for a seven in a row were odds on favourites to claim the title for the 81st time while Cork were looking for a 38th success. The great majority of the crowd of 18,265 came to Leeside expecting an away win, but the Kingdom’s victory wasn’t assured until the very end. Though Cork never led at any stage, drawing level just once, yet they pushed their visitors hard but will perhaps feel that they could have made more of a numerical advantage in the final quarter. While a moral victory will be of little comfort, the jury is still out on both Cork and indeed Kerry.
Early points from Seán O’Shea and David Clifford had the Kingdom off the mark as Cork had some sloppy wides – they would have six in the first half compared to none for Kerry – and a Kerry goal arrived in the sixth minute. Seán O’Shea was the instigator, with his surging run cutting a swathe through the Cork defence before offloading to wing-back Tom O’Sullivan, who finished well beyond Mark White.
Mark Collins did open Cork’s account with a close-in free after that but Dara Moynihan and David Clifford extended the Kerry advantage to seven points by the 13th minute. There could have been another goal too as lovely Clifford skill created a chance for O’Shea but White somehow kept the ball out. Cork might also have found the net but from a tight angle Luke Connolly shot wide. The goal for Cork did come in the 19th minute as a Luke Connolly delivery for Mark Collins might have drawn a foul but instead resulted in a throw-up on the 20m line. From that, Ruairí Deane won possession and his hand-pass for Connolly allowed for a palmed finish to the net. Winning their fair share of possession, Cork were struggling to convert that into more scores. The wides continued to come and when Mark Collins had a goal attempt it was foiled by a heroic Tadhg Morley block as a shaky Kerry defence survived although Collins may have been better served to off-load to a better placed colleague. That was at 1-7 to 1-2 and though Collins had his third point for Cork on the half-hour, three in a row from Kerry, one by Clifford and two from O’Shea, opened up a seven-point advantage as injury time dawned. A fine save with his feet by Mark White prevented a Kerry goal at one end while at the other end Seán White might have had another Cork goal but snatched at his chance, however Cork had had an advantage and Collins sent over the resultant free to leave six in it at half-time.
Sean O’Shea’s fifth point pushed Kerry further ahead again but Cork won a penalty with the next play after Killian O’Hanlon’s driving run was illegally halted. Luke Connolly sent his shot high to the left, beyond Ryan’s dive, and Mark Collins’s point meant that there were just three between the sides as Cork tried to build momentum. An O’Shea free tried to halt the Cork momentum but Seán White’s point made it a one-score game again and the leveller came as Ian Maguire’s delivery was deflected perfectly to allow Brian Hurley to flick to the net past Ryan and bring the sides level for the only time in the match.
Unfortunately for Cork, they couldn’t find a lead score and Diarmuid O’Connor and Clifford gave Kerry breathing space again. However, they were reduced to 14 men as Paul Geaney received a black card for a foul on Kevin Flahive, having previously been booked and he departed the action leaving Kerry to finish with 14 players. Though James Loughrey who was the free man had a point for Cork in the immediate aftermath, Kerry pushed on again through a pair of Stephen O’Brien points and O’Shea’s seventh of the night.
Still Cork came, with Mark Collins getting one from play and two frees to leave just one in it again but it wasn’t to be for them, though, as sub Micheál Burns was set up by Clifford in injury time and O’Shea was on hand with a late free to leave three in it at the final whistle. Once again so near but yet so far for a Cork side that certainly played a lot better than they had done previously, yet they still lack the confidence to land the killer blow. In contrast Kerry were always able to manufacture the necessary scores, even with a man down and while they were greatly exposed at the back at times, they still know how to win. For Cork they have something to build on and they will hopefully gather themselves for a shot through the qualifiers.
Scorers for Kerry: Seán O’Shea 0-8 (0-6frees), David Clifford 0-4 (0-1 free), Tom O’Sullivan 1-1, Stephen O’Brien 0-2, Paul Geaney, Micheál Burns, Dara Moynihan, Diarmuid O’Connor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: Mark Collins 0-8 (0-6 frees), Luke Connolly 2-0 (1-0 penalty), Brian Hurley 1-0, Seán White, James Loughrey 0-1 each.
KERRY: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy; Gavin White, Jack Sherwood, Tom O’Sullivan; David Moran, Jack Barry; Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; David Cliffors, Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien. Subs: Gavin Crowley for Foley (43), Micheál Burns for Moynihan (50), Adrian Spillane for Barry (53), Brian Ó Beaglaioch for O’Connor (66), Mark Griffin for O’Sullivan (68).
CORK: Mark White; Nathan Walsh, James Loughrey, Kevin Flahive; Liam O’Donovan, Tomás Clancy, Matthew Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; Paul Kerrigan, Seán White, Ruairí Deane; Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley, Mark Collins. Subs: Kevin O’Donovan for Walsh (35, injured), Kevin O’Driscoll for Seán White, Michael Hurley for Brian Hurley (both 59), Stephen Sherlock for Connolly (66), Aidan Browne for Taylor (68), Stephen Cronin for Loughrey (69).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)
Three reasons why Kerry won
1 Good Start: A good start is half the battle and going seven points clear gave Cork just too much ground to make up.
2 missed Cork chances. We will never know what would have happened had Cork converted two clear cut chances and while Kerry also missed one great chance, the misses by Cork were at a crucial time in the contest and goals might have been a big boost had they come.
Subs bench: The Kerry subs bench contributed far more than Cork’s did but at the end of the day just a goal separated the sides with Kerry’s know how the big difference on the night.