Munster SFC Final: Kerry stroll to victory
Munster Senior Football Championship Final
KERRY 3-18 CORK 2-4
By John Harrington at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Kerry’s young gun-slingers shot Cork full of holes in this evening’s one-sided Munster SFC Final at Páirc Ui Chaoimh.
With an average age of just 24 this Kerry team is going to be around for a while, but they’re clearly determined to make their mark now and won’t be content this year with just a Munster Championship.
They toyed with Cork at times this evening. Some of their attacking thrusts were a joy to behold, and they turned over opposition ball carriers time and again with aggressive and co-ordinated tackling.
But as comfortable as the win was, it’s clear too that this Kerry side is still a work in progress.
Some of their defending would have made Dublin manager Jim Gavin’s video analysts smile, and if Kerry have serious ambitions about knocking Dublin from their pedestal this year they’ll need to tighten up that aspect of their play.
And as slick as they looked this evening, it’s hard to know yet just how good this young Kerry team is until they’re faced with serious adversity and have to dig deep.
That never happened in this match, because apart from a quick start, Cork were well off the pace.
Time and again men in red jersies were left in the wake of jet-heeled Kerry players, and with what limited possession they had they struggled to put together cohesive attacking moves with any real consistency.
Cork’s challenge petered out fairly meekly in the end, but for the first ten minutes of the contest they at least gave their supporters something to really shout about.
The match couldn’t really have gotten off to a more dramatic start, with the Rebels scoring a goal in the second minute and Kerry replying in kind not long afterwards.
Cork’s goal was a product of their own opportunism and some slack Kerry defending as Ruairi Deane collected a pass from Sean White and soloed towards goal.
He muscled his way in along the end-line and when he hand-passed a ball across the face of the Kerry goal there was the unexpected figure of Cork full-back Jamie O’Sullivan to palm it to the net.
The Cork defender collided with the post in the process of scoring which forced him off the field for a few minutes, and his absence was costly.
You’d imagine if he had been on the field he would have had the defensive instincts to intercept Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien when he picked the ball up on the Cork ’45 and made a bee-line towards goal.
He was allowed bring the ball all the way as far as the ’14 yard line and then blasted it emphatically to the back of the Cork net.
When Paul Geaney then kicked a point to put Kerry 1-2 to 1-0 ahead it looked like they were beginning to settle into a comfortable rhythm, but they sustained another sharp shock on nine minutes when they conceded a second goal.
It was pretty much a carbon copy of the first as once again Ruairi Deane was allowed to solo towards goal, come in along the end-line, and hand-pass it across the face of the goal, and this time Mark Collins was on hand to palm it to the net.
It was poor defending by Kerry, and you can be sure both goals will be mentioned in training next week by manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
When Luke Connolly followed up the Collins goal with a brilliant point from play it drew a crescendo of cheers from the home supporters, but they’d have nothing else to shout about for the remaining 25 minutes of the half.
Kerry took complete control of the match, and that was largely thanks to the manner in which they pushed up successfully on the Cork kick-out.
With no targets to kick short to, Cork goalkeeper Mark White was forced to go long and his outfielders were cleaned out in the middle third by Kerry’s ball winners.
Kerry kicked nine unanswered points from the 10th minute to the half-time whistle to storm into a 1-10 to 2-1 lead, with the inside forward line of Geaney, David Clifford, and James O’Donoghue doing most of the damage.
Clifford was poetry in motion whenever he ran with the ball, and the two points he scored in the first half were typically classy efforts.
As good as Clifford is, at this point in his career he’s still very much the apprentice in the Kerry attack to master magician Geaney.
The Dingle man kicked three brilliant first-half points, and then effectively killed the game stone dead when he hammered home Kerry’s secondd at the start of the second-half.
From that moment on it was only a question of just how handsome a margin Kerry would win the match by.
Quite handsome, as it turned out. The introduction of substitutes like Kieran Donaghy, Darran O’Sullivan, and Barry John Keane meant Kerry never let up, and even if they were sloppy at times the scores kept mounting steadily.
Geaney had already kicked two more nice points when he capped a man of the match display with his second goal in the final minute of normal time.
In the end it was a stroll in the sun for this talented Kerry team, but it’ll be very interesting to see how they cope with the tougher tests ahead that await them in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final series, like the impending showdown with Connacht champions Galway.
Scorers for Kerry: Paul Geaney 2-5, Sean O’Shea 0-4 (2 ’45, 1f), James O’Donoghue 0-3 (1f), Stephen O’Brien 1-0, David Clifford 0-2, Paul Murphy 0-2, Gavin White 0-1, Barry John Keane 0-1
Scorers for Cork: Mark Collins 1-1, Jamie O’Sullian 1-0, Luke Connolly 0-2, Peter Kelleher 0-1
KERRY: Shane Murphy; Jason Foley, Peter Crowley, Brian Ó Beaglaoich; Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; David Moran, Jack Berry; Micheál Burns, Seán O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford, Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue. Subs: Kevin McCarthy for Stephen O’Brien (23 black card), Darran O’Sullivan for Micheal Burns (ht), Mark Griffin for Jason Foley (53), Kieran Donaghy for David Clifford (55), Barry John Keane for James O’Donoghue (58), Killian Young for Tadhg Morley (64)
CORK: Mark White; Kevin Crowley, Jamie O’Sullivan, Sam Ryan; Stephen Cronin, Kevin Flahivev, Tomas Clancy; Aidan Walsh, Ian Maguire; Kevin O’Driscoll, Sean White, John O’Rourke; Mark Collins, Ruairi Deane, Luke Connolly. Subs: James Loughrey for Sam Ryan (20, black card), Paul Kerrigan for Ruairi Deane (33, black card), Brian Hurley for John O’Rourke, Peter Kelleher for Kevin O’Driscoll (both half-time), Brian O’Driscoll for Stephen Cronin (58), Colm O’Neill for Aidan Walsh (59)
Ref: Ciarán Branagan (Down)