NEITHER side were particularly impressive.
Kerry, after a blistering opening five or six minutes, flattered to deceive and Cork, for all their physical prowess, for their ability to get goals, were pedestrian enough when it came to attacking football. Of their six starting forwards only one scored from play – Michael Cahalane and, apart from his goal, all he managed was a single point from play. The rest came from frees.
The Rebels can point to the fact the game was wrapped up after just 36 minutes as justification for their lacklustre return of just two points from the remainder of the game. Their manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, would surely have been hoping for more. Sure he'll be pleased and impressed with the three goals. The six points he'll have to regard as a poor return, even if he was the architect of a quite conservative defensive strategy.
A defensive strategy Kerry found it difficult to break down, apart from those opening exchanges. With Kevin Shanahan in the side Kerry were much stronger around the middle. They won more possession clean, they won more breaking ball, they looked sharp and hungry for this game. Tomás Ó Sé very nearly got in for a goal in the first minute. Anthony Casey saved and Conor Keane made use of the rebound for the game's opening score.
Ó Sé, Eanna Ó Conchuir and Jack Savage (from the placed ball) fired Kerry to a four point lead with less than ten minutes played. It was looking oh so promising for the Kingdom. Cork were, we were soon to discover, just working their way into the game. Michael Cahalane got their first score of the game with a free on seven minutes. On eight minutes he was bearing down on goal. His shot cracked off the crossbar, struck the unfortunate Ó Conchuir on the back and found its way to the back of the net.
All Kerry's good work undone. They continued to hold the whip hand around the middle. Scores, however, were harder to come by now. Cork had upped their intensity and were keeping well in touch with points from frees by Cahalane. Keane and Savage scored two points to counteract two from Cahalane and by the twentieth minute, despite some solid play from the hosts, matters were level.
If the Kerry faithful were frustrated by that little did they know the worst was still to come. Carrying the ball from defence Sean T Dillon was dispossessed by Jack Bushe. Bushe fed Cahalane, who made no mistake blasting to the back of Shane Ryan's net. Disaster for the Kingdom. They trailed by three. Four by the time the half-time whistle blew (Cahalane with yet another free) – 0-6 to 2-4.
As we've already noted It was 3-4 to 0-6 after just 36 minutes following Kevin O'Neill's goal – Richard O'Sullivan provided the assist as the Rebels cut a swathe down the middle of the Kerry defence, despite the positioning of Conor Jordan as a sweeper in front of the half-back line for much of the game.
Whatever chance Kerry had of getting back into this game died when their one and only goal chance of the half ended in the side netting. The chance fell to Kevin Shanahan and the big midfielder was unlucky not to, at least, hit the target.
After that it was a case of Kerry huffing and puffing and getting the occasional free – Jack Savage hit four from placed balls to round off Kerry's scoring – as Cork adopted a 'what we have we hold' stance. Ryan Harkin's point with about fifteen minutes remaining on the clock was both the highlight of the rest of the half from Cork's point of view and their last score of the game.
That's a worry for Fitzgerald and his management team.
What's a bigger worry, from Mickey Ned O'Sullivan's point of view, is that their victory was never in doubt, despite the fact they didn't score again.
Kerry: Shane Ryan (Rathmore), Sean T Dillon (St Senans), Cathal Ó Luing (An Ghaeltacht), Patrick O'Connor (Dingle), Matthew Flaherty (Dingle), Greg Horan (Austin Stacks), Brian Sugrue (Renard), Eanna Ó Conchuir (0-1) (An Ghaeltacht), Kevin Shanahan (Ardfert), David Foran (St Senans), Jack Savage (0-6, 5f) (Kerins O'Rahillys), Tomás Ó Sé (0-1) (An Ghaeltacht), Conor Keane (0-2) (Legion), Conor Jordan (Austin Stacks), Killian Spillane (Templenoe) Subs: Michael Burns (Dr Crokes) for K Spillane, Fionán Clifford (Waterville) for S Dillon, Paudie Carroll (Ardfert) for D Foran, Shane O'Connor for E Ó Conchuir
Cork: Anthony Casey (Kiskeam), Michael McSweeney (Newcestown), Dylan Quinn (St Finbarrs), Kevin Flahive (Douglas), Sean White (Clonakilty), Stephen Cronin (Nemo Rangers), Kevin Flynn (1-0) (Glenville), Ryan Harkin (0-1) (Mallow), Conor Kingston (Douglas), Richard O'Sullivan (Kilmacabea), Killian O'Connor (Mallow), Kevin Cremin (Boherbue), Michael Cahalane (1-5, 4f) (Bandon), Aidan Moynihan (Canovee), Jack Bushe (Illen Rovers) Subs: Donal O'Driscoll (Clann na nGael) for R O'Sullivan, Kieran Histon (Cobh) for D Quinn, Rickard Cahalane (Sliabh Rua) for A Moynihan, Patrick O'Brian (Bandon) for K O'Neill, Conor O'Driscoll (Mizen Rovers) for M Cahalane
Referee: David Grogan (Tipperary)