DENIS HURLEY REPORTS
THE Cork minor football side may yet reach this year’s Electric Ireland Munster MFC decider, but their progression may not be straightforward following a heavy defeat to Kerry at Páirc Uí Rinn on Tuesday night.
A 16-point loss in the first game of the new round-robin format in the province means that Cork must face Clare or Tipperary next Wednesday evening, before Kerry clash with the winners of the first phase the following week.
With such a dent in their scoring difference, there is now pressure on the Rebels and a win in their second game may not be enough to reach the decider.
However, Bobbie O’Dwyer’s side can only focus on themselves and they will be keen to atone for this loss, which didn’t look so likely just after half-time, when sub Jack Cahalane got in for a goal to level the game at 1-8 to 0-11.
Having trailed by five points early in the first half, Cork had tied the game at 0-7 each before Kerry pushed on again before the break but the green flag seemed to indicate a close second half in store. Unfortunately for Cork, it was one of just two scores they registered in the second period.
By the time the second one came, from captain Connor Corbett in the 56th minute, Kerry had added 3-7 to their tally as they made the most of the midfield dominance of Joseph Linehan and Ronan Collins, who provided the stage for a talented attack, with Dylan Geaney finishing with eight points while Jack O’Connor and Emmet O’Shea had 1-3 each.
After Cahalane’s goal, O’Connor and O’Shea had points to give Kerry breathing space again – James Costello’s Kingdom side never trailed – and when Darragh Lynch set up O’Shea for a goal they had a five-point cushion again.
Geaney added his sixth point before the second goal, scored by Gearóid Hassett from O’Connor’s superb pass, on 42 minutes. That made it 2-14 to 1-8 and there was no sense that there would be a Cork fightback from there.
O’Connor added the third goal on 54 – firing home at the second attempt after Cork full-back Danny Linehan got in a good block on his first effort – though Cork did almost net a consolation strike, which would have redressed some of the scoring-difference imbalance. Sub Alan O’Hare did well to create an opening for captain Corbett and he struck the ball well but Kerry goalkeeper Devon Burns pulled off a marvellous stop to divert the ball over the bar for Cork’s only other score of the second half.
Kerry sub Ryan O’Grady had the final say, leaving no doubt that the Kingdom, winners of the last five All-Irelands and six Munster titles, are certain to be in the mix this year too.
Cork do at least have the consolation of being able to recover from this, whereas the previous system often worked against them and curtailed their championship season.
They will look to build on the positive moments from the first half, not least the fine comeback from five points down. Ryan O’Donovan from Barryroe was in excellent form as he scored five points from full-forward while Corbett and Patrick Campbell did well too when Cork managed to get the ball beyond the halfway line.
Adam Walsh-Murphy of Valley Rovers, Gabriel Rangers’ Keith O’Driscoll and Denis Collins (Glengarriff) were all involved in good build-up play, with Collins setting up O’Donovan on 23 minutes to make it 0-7 each.
However, even then, there was a feeling that Kerry had the capability to respond, with Hassett unlucky not to get a goal immediately afterwards, sending a soccer-style shot wide while Joseph O’Shea of Urhan had to get in a good block to deny Lynch.
Hassett, O’Connor, Geaney and Colin Crowley had points to put the Kingdom 0-11 to 0-7 ahead again while Emmet O’Shea had a shot saved by Aaron O’Brien in the Cork goal.
O’Donovan’s fifth point left a goal in it at half-time and that goal came from Cahalane within 24 seconds of the restart. Unfortunately for Cork, it was the high point of the evening.
Kerry: Dylan Geaney 0-8 (2f), Jack O’Connor (0-1 45), Emmet O’Shea 1-3 each, Gearóid Hassett 1-2, Colin Crowley 0-2, Ryan O’Grady 0-1.
Cork: Ryan O’Donovan 0-5 (3f), Jack Cahalane 1-0, Patrick Campbell, Connor Corbett 0-2 each.
Kerry: Devon Burns; Kieran O’Sullivan, Alan Dineen, Luke Chester; Eoghan O’Sullivan, Adam Curran, Seán O’Brien; Joseph Linehan, Ronan Collins; Jack O’Connor, Colin Crowley, Darragh Lynch; Dylan Geaney, Gearóid Hassett, Emmet O’Shea.
Subs: Dylan O’Callaghan for Lynch (33-38, blood), O’Callaghan for Crowley (48), Tomás Ó hAiniféin for Linehan (49), Kevin Goulding for O’Shea, Jason Kerins for O’Brien (54), Ryan O’Grady for O’Connor, Tommy Cronin for Chester (both 56).
Cork: Aaron O’Brien (Mitchelstown); Neil Lordan (Ballinora), Dan Peet (Clonakilty), Nathan Gough (Bishopstown); Darragh Cashman (Millstreet), Danny Linehan (Castlemagner), Joseph O’Shea (Urhan); Eoghan Nash (Douglas), Hugh Murphy (Éire Óg); Adam Walsh-Murphy (Valley Rovers), Connor Corbett (Clyda Rovers), Denis Collins (Glengarriff); Keith O’Driscoll (Gabriel Rangers), Ryan O’Donovan (Barryroe), Patrick Campbell (Nemo Rangers).
Subs: Jack Cahalane (Castlehaven) for Nash (half-time), Shane Aherne (Douglas) for O’Driscoll (40), Seán Andrews (Shamrocks) for Gough (43), Alan O’Hare (Douglas) for Collins (48), Jack McGrath (Carrigaline) for Walsh-Murphy (57).
Referee: Alan Kissane (Waterford).