KIERAN McCARTHY REPORTS
THE new year is only days old, yet hope and optimism filled the air over Páirc Uí Rinn after Cork footballers stretched their legs for the first time in 2023.
Any win over the old enemy is welcome, even if it is the McGrath Cup, yet that is the context that Cork’s 12-point win over Kerry on Wednesday night should be put it: this is a pre-season game. The bigger – and far more important – battles lie ahead. Still, this was an encouraging start to John Cleary’s reign as manager.
True, Cork are further down the preparation road than a rusty Kerry. Also true, Cork were far better in the opening half, as they opened up a 3-7 to 0-6 half-time lead. Twenty-one second-half substitutions punctured the game as a contest, and a late seven-point scoring spree from Kerry put some respectability on the scoreboard; Cork had led 5-10 to 0-7 at one stage. The first half is where Cork laid down a marker.
The early first-half exchanges were somewhat misleading. Brian Hurley’s fifth-minute goal owed much to Sean Powter’s incredible turn of pace that scorched a hole down the centre of the Kerry defence, but the score was level, 1-0 to 0-3 after 11 minutes. Points from Tony Brosnan (free), goalkeeper Shane Murphy (45) and Killian Spillane suggested Kerry were here for a battle, but the Rebels quickly quashed their neighbour’s hope.
The lively Chris Óg Jones and hard-working Brian O’Driscoll pointed, sandwiching a close-range miss from Kevin O’Donovan after a smooth Cork attack carved open the Kerry back line, again. It should have been goal number two.
Nineteen minutes in, Cork did strike for a second goal, as Iveleary forward Jones finished off a move involving Conor Corbett and Hurley. When Brian O’Driscoll landed a superb effort from distance, Cork were 2-3 to 0-3 clear.
Dara Roche’s reply for Kerry stopped the Cork scoring surge, but not for long as Colm O’Callaghan palmed home the Rebels’ third goal after being set up by his midfield partner, Ian Maguire.
Again, Roche responded for Kerry. Again, Cork hit back, with points from the free-scoring midfielder O’Callaghan (3) and Hurley. Kerry had the last say of the first half, but it was Cork in control, leading 3-7 to 0-6, and full value for it.
Cork’s eye for goal continued in the second half, and Brian O’Driscoll, on his Cork return, finished powerfully, Corbett with the assist. That moved the Rebels 4-7 to 0-7 ahead after 40 minutes. Colm O’Callaghan, who top scored with 2-4, added Cork’s fifth goal eight minutes later. In truth, the home side could have had seven or eight goals on the night.
The last quarter petered out, Kerry firing off those late scores, but the match was over well before then. Yes, it’s only the McGrath Cup but Cork started as they intend to go on. Next up is Clare away on January 15th, as work continues towards the league throw in at the end of the month.
CORK: C O’Callaghan 2-4; B Hurley 1-2; B O’Driscoll 1-2; C Óg Jones 1-1; S Powter, J O’Rourke 0-1. KERRY: T Brosnan 0-6 (5f); D Roche, D Moynihan 0-2 each; S Murphy (45), K Spillane, D O’Sullivan, M Burns 0-1 each.
CORK: MA Martin; M Shanley, D O’Mahony, K O’Donovan; R Maguire, S Meehan, M Taylor; C O'Callaghan, I Maguire; E McSweeney, S Powter, B O’Driscoll; C Óg Jones, B Hurley, C Corbett. Subs: K O’Hanlon for I Maguire (49), J O’Rourke for E McSweeney (49), R Deane for C Corbett (52), T Walsh for K O’Donovan (52), F Herlihy for S Powter (55), L Fahy for M Taylor (55), M Cronin for C Óg Jones (55), C Kiely for R Maguire (58), S Merritt for C O’Callaghan (58), S Sherlock for B Hurley (63), C Kelly for MA Martin (63).
KERRY: S Murphy; D Casey, J Foley, J O’Shea; J McCarthy, T Morley, C Gammell; D O’Connor, B O’Sullivan; A Spillane, R Murphy, B O’Mahony; T Brosnan, D Roche, K Spillane. Subs: G Horan for McCarthy (ht), J Barry for B O’Sullivan (ht), M Breen for Gammell (ht), T O’Sullivan for Foley (ht), S Okunbor for A Spillane (ht), M Burns for Murphy (ht), D Moynihan for Mahony (ht); D O’Sullivan for D O’Connor (52), D O’Donoghue for T Morley (52), D Geaney for K Spillane (57).
Referee: D O’Callaghan (Limerick).