Cleary's Cork primed to halt Kingdom's bid for revenge
Munster U-21 FC final
Kerry v Cork, Tralee, 7.30
K O'Brien (Tipperary)
Published 11/04/2012 | 05:00
REWIND to 12 months ago and the scoreline emanating from the Munster U-21 football championship final was scarcely believable.
By the time the final whistle blew, the scoreboard at Pairc Ui Rinn showed Cork had racked up 2-22 to Kerry's eight points in one of the most one-sided games between these sides at any level.
Brian Cleary's Rebels had led by 16 at the break and extended that to a staggering 22 points at the end to record an embarrassing defeat for Kerry and one to remember for Cork.
As a response, Kerry rolled out the big guns. John Kennedy stepped aside in the wake of that defeat and now Eamonn Fitzmaurice heads up a heavy-hitting management team that also includes Darragh O Se, former Dr Crokes manager Harry O'Neill as well as ex-Munster rugby player John O'Sullivan, who acts as fitness trainer.
The Kingdom did enough to get past Tipperary, who have enjoyed some success against Kerry at underage level in recent times. They managed 11 points in that game, with 10 of those scores coming from the full-forward line of Kieran Hurley, Conor Cox and Stephen O'Brien.
Kerry subsequently steamrolled a poor Waterford side in the semi-final to set up another crack at the Rebels.
For Cork and Brian Cleary, 2012 might also bring a sense of unfinished business. After they steamrolled Kerry, they were installed as hot favourites for the All-Ireland title only to be undone by Galway in Ennis in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The likes of Aidan Walsh and Ciaran Sheehan are no longer eligible, but they retain the likes of Donal Og Hodnett, who kicked 1-4 in last year's final.
Centre-forward Hodnett takes over the captaincy in the absence of Rory O'Sullivan who misses out through injury, while Eoin Healy comes into the team with Dan McEoin dropping to the bench.
But even allowing for those losses, it remains to be seen if Kerry have done enough to bridge the surprising gulf that appeared between the sides 12 months ago.
Aided by home support and a strong-looking bench that includes Eanna O'Connor (son of senior manager Jack) they won't be too far away, but Cork look well placed to secure their seventh provincial title at this grade since 2004.
Odds: Kerry 5/4 Cork 4/5 Draw 7/1
Kerry -- P O'Sullivan; M Galvin, M Griffin, F McNamara; P Kilkenny, J Sherwood, P Murphy; D O'Sullivan, J Walsh; S O'Carroll, C Brady, S O'Brien; I Galvin, C Cox, K Hurley.
Cork -- S Mellett; D O'Donovan, D Cahalane, A Cronin; J Cronin, T Clancy, J Wall; R Deane, E Healy; K Hallissey, D Og Hodnett, J O'Rourke; L Connolly, M Sugrue, B Hurley.