ALL-IRELAND champions Cork lost the latest battle against ancient rivals Kerry in yesterday’s Munster SFC final but manager Conor Counihan vowed to win this year’s war.
Counihan watched his charges slump to a three-point defeat in a gripping provincial decider at Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium but the Rebels produced enough in the second half to suggest that they will go close to holding onto the Sam Maguire. When man of the match Declan O’Sullivan pointed 12 seconds after half-time, Cork trailed by a whopping 11-point margin. But the Leesiders fought back to within one point of the Munster champions in the closing minutes and could have snatched it with three minutes remaining.
John Miskella bombed forward from the Cork half-back line but struck the base of the upright as he attempted to snatch a famous winning goal. Kerry closed the game out with late scores from Eoin Brosnan and sub James O’Donoghue to ensure that Cork’s long wait for a championship victory on Kerry soil, which stretches back to 1995, continues. A blistering display from Kerry in the first half provided the platform for victory as the hosts led by 1-10 to 0-5 at the midway point. Darran O’Sullivan lashed home a sensational 15th-minute goal for the hosts, with Donncha O’Connor netting a 56th-minute penalty for Cork.
Kerry could have had more goals in the first half as Darran O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy went close and a curious tactic of Cork’s was their tendency to play short kickouts, when it was generally assumed that midfield dominance would win the game for them. Kerry hoovered up around the middle third but it was a different story after half-time as Cork upped the ante considerably. But the sight of Ciarán Sheehan being stretchered off in the 41st minute will have concerned Counihan, with the former U21 star due to undergo scans this morning on suspected cruciate knee ligament damage. All six of Kerry’s forwards scored from play; with centre back Brosnan and midfielder Bryan Sheehan also on target.
Cork’s haul of 0-9 from play will have disappointed Counihan, who also lamented his team’s decisionmaking at crucial times. REGROUP But the former All-Ireland medallist insisted that his team will regroup for another run through the back door – a route that served them well last year. And he strongly hinted that he would love nothing more than another crack at Kerry, who have avoided defeat against Cork in the last four championship meetings between the sides. Counihan said: “It was an opportunity no doubt but as I said to people earlier on, we may have lost the battle but we haven’t lost the war.
At the end of the day, we would love to have won today but the bigger prize is there if we can knuckle down and get our game going again. “My own view on records is that they’re there to be broken. Some day it’s going to happen – it didn’t happen today. If Johnny Miskella hadn’t hit the post there’s a fair chance it would have happened but we can’t dwell on that. We have to do our business right. If we do ours right and Kerry do theirs right, maybe we’ ll find the answer to that question later on in the year.”
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor revealed that he targeted Cork’s defensive spine as an area that the Kingdom could exploit – as Declan O’Sullivan ran riot against John Miskella and Graham Canty. O’Connor said: “Well we just didn't think that the marking arrangements would suit them. Miskella wouldn't see himself as a full-back and I suppose he's (O’Sullivan) the type of full-forward that wouldn't suit Canty either so we thought that would give them a bit of bother and (Kieran) Donaghy was a big presence in the middle of the field at stages as well.”
KERRY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-15
SCORERS: Declan O’Sullivan 0-5, Darran O’Sullivan 1-0, B Sheehan, K Donaghy, C Cooper (1f) 0-2 each, E Brosnan, D Walsh, K O’Leary & J O’Donoghue 0-1 each. STARTING 15: B Kealy 7; S Enright 6, M Ó Sé 6, T O’Sullivan 6; K Young 6, E Brosnan 7, A O’Mahony 7; A Maher 7, B Sheehan 7; Darran O’Sullivan 7, Declan O’Sullivan 9, D Walsh 7; C Cooper 7, K Donaghy 8, K O’Leary 7. SUBS: BJ Keane 6 for O’Leary (53), M Quirke 6 for Sheehan (57), D Bohan 6 for Enright (62), J O’Donoghue 6 for Darran O’Sullivan (67). WIDES: 10 (8+2) BOOKED: K Donaghy (40), C Cooper (70+4).
REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath).
CORK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-12
SCORERS: D Goulding 0-5 (3f), D O’Connor 1-1 (1-0 pen), P Kerrigan 0-3, A O’Connor, C Sheehan, P Kelly 0-1 each. STARTING 15:A Quirke 6, J O’Sullivan 5,GCanty 6, MShields 6;NO’Leary6,J Miskella 6,P Kissane 5; A O’Connor8, A Walsh 5; CSheehan5,P Kelly 7, P O’Neill 6; D Goulding 7, D O’Connor 7, P Kerrigan 8. SUBS: E Cotter 7 for J O’Sullivan (half-time), F Goold 6 for Sheehan (inj, 41), E Cadogan 6 for Kissane (49), DenisO’Sullivan for Miskella (70), F Lynch for Kerrigan (70+1). WIDES: 6 (3+3). BOOKED: O’Neill (28), D O’Sullivan (70+4).
MAN OF THE MATCH: Declan O’Sullivan (Kerry)