KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS FROM PAIRC UI CHAOIMH
THEY fell short in the end – but Cork defied all the odds to push Kerry to the brink in the Munster senior football final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night.
Written off in the lead up, and having lost last year’s final to Kerry by 17 points, Cork caused Kerry more problems that anyone could have envisaged.
Down six points, 1-10 to 1-4, at the break, Cork rallied in the second half with goals from Luke Connolly (penalty) and Brian Hurley to sensationally level the game, 1-12 to 3-6, after 47 minutes.
Rebels’ hopes were rising after this but Cork never hit the front, and instead Kerry scored five of the next six points to lead 1-17 to 3-7.
When Paul Geaney saw red – yellow card followed by black – after 54 minutes Kerry were down to 14, but Cork didn’t capitalise on numerical advantage.
Five minutes left, Kerry held that 1-17 to 3-7 lead but three points in a row from Mark Collins set up an exciting finale with one point the difference, 1-17 to 3-10, with five minutes of injury time to play.
But it was Kerry that finished strong with points in injury time to escape with a win that many had assumed was a formality.
The quick start that Cork needed never materialised. Instead it was Kerry that tore out of the traps to race 1-3 to 0-0 ahead after eight minutes. Corner back Tom O’Sullivan stole forward to slot home a sixth minute goal.
Cork had to wait until the ninth minute to get on the scoreboard when Mark Collins tapped over a free. But worth noting too that Cork missed three good chances in the opening ten minutes, all drifting across the goal on the Blackrock end.
Sean O’Shea and David Clifford stretched Kerry’s lead to 1-5 to 0-1 before Cork were thrown a lifeline.
By now, Cork had already missed a big goal chance when Ruairi Deane burst right through the Kerry defence. One on one, the Bantry man’s shot was straight at Kerry goalkeeper Shane Ryan.
Cork got their reward when Luke Connolly goaled after 19 minutes, palming the ball to the net after a pass from Deane. It was now 1-5 to 1-1.
After the sides swapped points, Mark Collins had a goal chance but his shot was straight at Ryan when Brian Hurley was lurking to his left. Collins should have passed.
Collins did score another free to narrow the gap to four, 1-7 to 1-4, but Kerry finished the half on top with three points in a row to lead 1-10 to 1-3. Collins scored his fourth free of the half to leave six points between the teams at the break, 1-10 to 1-4.
Then came that pulsating second half and Cork will head into the qualifiers buoyed by this performance.
Cork: Mark Collins 0-8 (6f), Luke Connolly 2-0 (1-0 pen), Sean White, James Loughrey 0-1 each.
Kerry: Sean O’Shea 0-8 (6f), David Clifford 0-4 (1f), Tom O’Sullivan 1-1, Stephen O’Brien 0-2, Paul Geaney, Dara Moynihan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Micheál Burns 0-1 each.
Cork: Mark White; Nathan Walsh, James Loughrey, Kevin Flahive; Liam O’Donovan, Sean White, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; Paul Kerrigan, Ruairi Deane, Tomás Clancy; Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Luke Connolly. Subs: Kevin O’Donovan for Walsh (35, inj); Kevin O’Driscoll for White (58), Michael Hurley for B Hurley (58), Stephen Sherlock for Connolly (65), Aidan Browne for M Taylor (67), Stephen Cronin for Loughrey (68).
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy, Jack Sherwood, Gavin White; David Moran, Jack Barry; Diarmuid O’Connor, Sean O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Dara Moynihan. Subs: Gavin Crowley for Foley (42), Micheal Burns for Moynihan (49), Adrian Spillane for Barry (52), Brian O Beaglaoich for O’Connor (65), Mark Griffin for T O’Sullivan (67).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).