Kerry ladies will seldom have a better opportunity to beat Cork in a Munster senior football final

Kerry are expected to be without captain Siofra O’Shea who sustained a hip injury in a clash with Cork goalkeeper Maebh O’Sullivan in their recent Munster SFC game

Referee Kevin Phelan with team captains Maire O'Callaghan of Cork and Anna Galvin of Kerry before their National League Division 1 match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork in March. The counties meet in the Munster SFC Final in Mallow on Sunday.

Dan KearneyKerryman

Kerry are just one step away from collecting their second piece of silverware for 2023 but standing in their way will be a formidable Cork side in the Munster Senior Final at Mallow GAA grounds next Sunday.

Kerry come into the game as reigning National League champions but that will count for little in Cork’s own backyard, and the Rebels will certainly relish getting one over on their rivals from across the border as they bid to retain the 2022 title that they won when defeating Kerry by 2-11 to 1-9 in Fitzgerald Stadium.

Recent history suggests that Kerry are in for a tough battle. In their National League encounter back on St Patrick’s Day the Kingdom fell to an eight point defeat in Pairc Uí Chaoimh, and earlier this month Kerry went from a ten point lead in the final quarter to barely scraping a draw in their Munster Championship encounter.

The National League result could be tempered with the fact that Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh was injured for that game and Lorraine Scanlon, Siofra O’Shea, Aishling O’Connell and Niamh Ní Chonchúir only came off the bench in the second half to try and rescue the game for the Kingdom.

The Championship game was a different story as Kerry had all the big guns on from the start, but concentration levels dipped alarmingly coming down the stretch when they should have been seeing out the game. The Kerry players were already on the sofa with the remote control when Cork struck for two goals and four points without reply in a mad ending to the contest. Joint-manager Darragh Long says that it comes down to controlling the game better.

“We must close out the game,” insisted Long. “For fifty-five minutes of the game in Pairc Uí Chaoimh we dominated. Maybe the first ten minutes it took us a while to get into it until Niamh Carmody got her goal but with ten minutes to go we should have closed out the game rather than trying to keep the scoreboard ticking over so it’s all about game management.

“There was something similar against Tipperary the weekend after; we were 2-6 to 0-2 up at half time but Tipperary got a run at us with the wind in the second half and we still have a load to learn from that game. We did close it out a little bit better considering the changes in the team that we had that day. Between the two games it comes down to game management.”

If Kerry find themselves in a similar winning position again there is no doubt that they will have learned from their mistakes in the Tipperary and Cork games. Wisdom follows experience after all. But the problem is that Cork will have learned from that game as well and they will feel that Kerry are vulnerable and can be got at.

Cork will feel that Kerry can be got at if they put a tight squeeze around the middle third and create space for their full forward line. They will try and force Kerry’s defensive blanket to come out and create one on one duels in the inside line. It was a tactic they deployed in the final quarter of the group game, and it paid rich dividends.

Full forward Katie Quirke finished with 1-4 that day and caused Kerry all sorts of bother throughout the game. Katie Quirke popped over two points and Doireann O’Sullivan scored four. They will be key to the Cork cause again and if Kerry can hold this trio then they will be in with a serious shout.

Another key to the Cork comeback was the contribution of their subs with Orlaith Cahalane scoring 1-1 and key contributions from Daire Kiely and Laura O’Mahony. Kerry will need an equal impact off the bench if they are to be successful in the Munster Final.

Kerry are certain to be without Siofra O’Shea who sustained a hip injury ina clash with Cork goalkeeper Maebh O’Sullivan in the drawn game. The Kerry captain will be a massive loss to her side as she was displaying some fine form prior to her injury. Danielle O’Leary is likely to start in her place and she is a player that is well capable of producing the goods on the big day.

Other than Síofra O’Shea, Darragh Long says that Kerry should be injury free.

“Hopefully we’ll have Siofra for the All-Ireland series three weeks later. She’s a good healer so hopefully she’ll be back for the first game. She hasn’t trained since the injury so we’ll have to wait and see.

“Other than that, we’re okay. You’ve Emer (Riordan) and Katie (Brosnan) with long term injuries but that’s it. It’s good with a panel of thirty three. We had a run of hamstring niggles with Ciara O’Brien, Aoife Dillane and Eilis Lynch but thankfully they’re all cleared up now.”

Kerry last claimed Munster Championship honours in 2017 with a 2-17 to 2-15 win over Cork so another title is well overdue. Current Limerick manager Graham Shine was in charge back then, and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, Eilis Lynch, Emma Costello, Lorraine Scanlon and Anna Galvin remain on board since.

Kerry need to beat Cork not only for the silverware but also for the psychological boost that a win over their nearest rivals would bring. Another loss and not only will doubts creep in but it could also have a negative impact in their performances in the All Ireland series.

Darragh Long says that winning Munster honours would be huge for his team.

“Winning a Munster Championship would be massive for us. Kerry haven’t won it since 2017 so it’s similar to reaching the All-Ireland final last year for the first time, and winning our first Division One title in so many years. Every competition that we enter we want to win. It really would be huge for us to win it.

“We’ll give huge respect to Cork and between now and the first whistle in Mallow next Sunday we’ll give them all the respect they deserve, and that’s a lot. They’re the only team to have beaten us this year and they posed us a lot of problems. We feel that we have as many players as them to give them trouble. It’s all about performances on the day an if we can win the individual battles, we’ll be in a very good position coming into the final hurdle on Sunday, and hopefully we can get over the line.”

There should only be a bounce of a ball between Kerry and Cork on Sunday a single mistake could make all the difference to the result. With both teams carrying some seriously potent attacking threats up front it’s the side that makes the fewest errors that will come out on top. Kerry have the big game experience to get the job done and they get the nod to bring more silverware over the county bounds.

Verdict: Kerry


Kerry v Cork

Sunday, May 28

Mallow GAA Complex, Cork at 3.30pm