All too easy for Kerry as Rebels' misery deepens
Kerry 1-23 Cork 0-15 - Munster SFC final
A fine day and a lively pre-match atmosphere evoked reminders of great Munster final days from the past but that was as good as it got in Killarney yesterday.
Once the action got under way, the gulf between Kerry and Cork became evident in the opening minutes and continued all the way to the finish of a game where the second half had 10 minutes of stoppage time, resulting from a nasty head injury to Kerry corner-back Fionn Fitzgerald. Most of the closing minutes were played out in front of rapidly-emptying terraces as Cork fans trudged wearily to the exits.
They had seen more than enough of what was another dismally poor performance by Cork, whose stock is now at its lowest for a very long time.
Relaunching for a Round 4 qualifier in three weeks will be very difficult for a squad with such low confidence levels.
They needed a good start to have any chance against a Kerry team, whose focus is very much on All-Ireland glory. And while the Kingdom’s performance was far from perfect, it didn’t need to be as they were in control for most of the way.
They made an early statement when firing over the lead point after 15 seconds and, by the fourth minute, they were four points ahead.
James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney had made an early impression, tantalising their markers and looking very much as if they were intent on destruction.
They carried on as they started, finishing up with 1-12 between them (1-7 from open play). The support acts were pretty good too, including second-half subs Stephen O’Brien, Barry John Keane and Darran O’Sullivan, underlining the amount of attacking talent at Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s disposal.
Kieran Donaghy’s recall had come as something of a surprise but he played quite well, alternating between full-forward and midfield as the occasion demanded. David Moran and Anthony Maher had good spells at midfield, although they also dipped at times as Ian Maguire and Aidan Walsh improved Cork’s ball-winning capacity, especially in the second quarter.
Maguire also came close to scoring a goal in the 12th minute, only to be denied by a fine save from Brian Kelly.
Cork, who were trailing by five points at that stage, badly needed a goal but, as with so many aspects of their game all year, they weren’t clinical enough to avail of the chance. Still, they improved considerably in the second quarter and while it took a smashing save from Ken O’Halloran to deny Paul Geaney in the 27th minute, the Rebels stretched Kerry with their direct running through the middle. Indeed, that’s one aspect of their performance that Fitzmaurice will, no doubt, address before he takes Kerry to Croke Park for the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Kerry led by 0-11 to 0-7 at half-time and, just as they had done in the first half, they blitzed Cork on the re-start. They scored four points in the opening four minutes and were 0-16 to 0-7 ahead by the time sub Donncha O’Connor kicked Cork’s first score of the half in the 43rd minute.
Kerry didn’t shoot their first wide of the afternoon until the 42nd minute and once play resumed after a lengthy break while Fitzgerald was being treated, it rapidly became clear that there would be no grand recovery by Cork.
They kept plugging away without making any real impression and were left as mere specks in Kerry’s rearview mirror when Paul Geaney bundled home the only goal of the game in the 64th minute.
Fitzmaurice emphasised afterwards that Kerry had plenty areas that needed improvement before their All-Ireland challenge moves to Croke Park. That may be the case but it says a lot about their current status that they could win a fifth successive Munster title without being really tested in the final.
It says a lot about Cork too. Two wins from seven games in Division 2 and one-point wins over Waterford and Tipperary in the Munster Championship didn’t exactly suggest they were ready for the big step-up in class but, their supporters were hoping that the grand occasion might energise them.
They weren’t found wanting on the effort front but much of it was poorly directed. There was nothing remotely coherent about their attacking plan, which often relied on individual bursts.
They enjoyed some success with that approach – Tomás Clancy was unlucky when his drive flew just wide early in the second half – but on many occasions the runner had no one to aim at in an undermanned attack.
In contrast, Kerry’s half-backs and midfielders had plenty of options when they won possession. Cork packed lots of cover into the defence but were frequently unhinged by Kerry’s quick, crisp foot-passing. But then there’s a vast difference between the squads. Kerry are oozing ambition and self-assurance, whereas Cork look like a side that don’t know what’s happening to them.
It’s a mood that prevalent throughout a county which can’t figure out why so much provincial success at underage level has made so little impact on the senior scene. They brought veterans, Alan O’Connor and Donncha O’Connor on in the second half, and while the latter did quite well, it seems odd that they had to look to a 36-year-old for inspiration.
Peadar Healy said that it was now time to work hard for a Round 4A qualifier where they will meet Mayo, Donegal, Meath or Clare. On yesterday’s evidence, they will need a lot of luck if they are to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final where the Connacht champions will await.
As for Kerry, the year is going very much to plan. The league and Munster titles have been secured and now comes the pursuit of the ultimate prize.
They appear to be well-primed for the great challenge.
Scorers – Kerry: P Geaney 1-5 (1f), J O’Donoghue 0-7 (4f), S O’Brien 0-3, M Geaney 0-2 (1 ‘45’), A Maher, K Donaghy, D Moran, P Murphy, BJ Keane, E Enright 0-1 each. Cork: D O’Connor 0-6 (4f), L Connolly (1f), M Collins (1f), N Coakley (2f) 0-2 each, I Maguire, T Clancy, P Kerrigan 0-1 each.
Kerry – B Kelly 6; F Fitzgerald 7, M Griffin 7, S Enright 8; P Crowley 7, T Morley 7, P Murphy 7; D Moran 7, A Maher 7; M Geaney 7, K McCarthy 6, D Walsh 6; P Geaney 8, K Donaghy 7, J O’Donoghue 9. Subs: S O’Brien 8 for Walsh (h-t), J Buckley 7 for McCarthy (41), K Young 7 for Fitzgerald (45), J Barry 6 for Maher (58), BJ Keane 7 for O’Donoghue (63) D O’Sullivan 6 for Donaghy (64), J Lyne for M Geaney (65).
Cork – K O’Halloran 6; K Crowley 5, J O’Sullivan 5, M Shields 5; S Powter 6, J Loughery 6, T Clancy 7; R Deane 5, I Maguire 6; K O’Driscoll 5, M Collins 5, A Walsh 6; N Coakley 5, L Connolly 5, P Kerrigan 5. Subs: D O’Connor 7 for Coakley (h-t), A O’Connor 5 for Deane (38), C O’Driscoll for Shields (41), M Hurley 5 for K O’Driscoll (5), E Cadogan 5 for Loughery (63), S Cronin 5 for O’Sullivan (BC, 63).
Ref – P Neilan (Roscommon)