Kingdom dig it out to complete clean sweep
Munster Under 20 FC Final: Kerry 3-11 Cork 0-14
Friday night delights continued for Kerry last week as for the third successive week they were victorious in the Munster Under 20s and this time the brand new cup in the brand new grade would be theirs.
It was far from straight forward though, a shaky start to both the first and second periods and Cork really having a purpose all had to be overcome before two well timed second period goals allowed Kerry the ability to complete the clean sweep of provincial football titles for the county.
Cork arguably came into last Friday evening in a promising position, nothing much expected of them after Kerry's maulings of Limerick and Waterford and they took advantage of Kerry's lack of competitive bite early on in scoring the first three points inside the opening three minutes as the switch of midfielder Mark Keane to the forward line caused difficulty for Kerry early on.
The hosts did draw level by the ninth minute but a response by Keane showed that Kerry would need something a bit more sustaining to get the better of the Rebels.
That came in the 13th minute when Fiachra Clifford found David Shaw with a brilliant high ball and although Shaw still had some distance to reach the net, his quick turn and finish gave Kerry the lead for the first time at 1-3 to 0-4.
Four consecutive Cork points, three from Chris Óg Jones, undid the good work of the goal somewhat as Kerry needed their half-back line of Mike Breen, Graham O'Sullivan and Daniel O'Brien to be firm in the face of Cork dominance.
Cormac Linnane did had a shot saved by goalkeeper Ian Giltinan before the break, but both Colm O'Callaghan for Cork and Clifford for Kerry exchanged points to the sides going in level at 0-9 to 1-6.
A free from Jones was the only score after the restart up until the 41st minute as the woodwork denied Cork's Maurice Shanley another promising scoring chance. The decision to take off Shaw might have raised eyebrows but the player introduced for him, Eddie Horan, had an almost instant impact in getting on the end of a break to the line by Clifford and firing home to give Kerry the lead once more at 2-6 to 0-10.
The pressure would come again though with a black card for Dara Moynihan two minutes later. Tadhg Corkery's exuberance in getting him off the pitch, might have backfired somewhat on the Cork player soon after but a catch underneath the posts by goalkeeper Brian Lonergan kept Kerry in control as the match got down to the nitty-gritty.
Graham O'Sullivan along with Moynihan's replacement Seán O'Leary (2) put over calming scores to keep Kerry ahead with 10 minutes left, 2-9 to 0-12 before the insurance score came approaching the final five minutes.
Cork defender Kevin O'Donovan was black-carded for a foul on Donal O'Sullivan and a penalty was awarded to the Kingdom. Midfielder Mark Ryan converted the spot-kick to put the game beyond the Rebels' reach even though they reigned in probing ball in an effort to salvage matters.
Stefan Okunbor was firm in his duties, however, as the Kerry full-back grew into proceedings as the match wore on. Team captain O'Sullivan rounded off the scoring for the victors with two late points as a personal total of 0-7 (2f) for Jones proved to be not enough to prevent the Cork U-20's becoming the fourth side from the Rebel County to lose out to the Kingdom in Munster this year.
The action on the pitch was just as intense as the heat in the air, but it was encouraging after the non-events experienced the previous two weeks that Kerry had the stomach and know-how to come through a real test like this.
Kerry: Brian Lonergan (Ballymacelligott); David Naughton (Dr Crokes), Stefan Okunbar (Na Gaeil), Micheál Reidy (Ballymacelligott); Mike Breen (Beaufort); Graham O'Sullivan (Dromid Pearses, 0-1), Daniel O'Brien (Glenflesk); Mark Ryan (Rathmore, 1-0, 1p), Diarmuid O'Connor (Na Gaeil); Fiachra Clifford (Laune Rangers, 0-2, 1f), Cormac Linnane (Beale, 0-2), Dara Moynihan (Spa); Donal O'Sullivan (Kilgarvan, 0-4, 1f), Bryan Sweeney (Listowel Emmets), David Shaw (Dr Crokes, 1-0) Subs: Brian Friel (Rathmore) for Linnane, Eddie Horan (Scartaglin, 1-0) for Shaw (40), Sean O'Leary (Kilcummin, 0-2) for Moynihan (black card), Michael Potts (Dr Crokes) for Clifford, Michéal Foley (Ballydonoghue) for O'Connor and Cian Gammell (Killarney Legion) for Naughton
Cork: Ian Giltinan; Nathan Walsh, Sean Walsh, Kevin O'Donovan; Liam O'Donovan, Aidan Browne, Tom Lenihan; Colm O'Callaghan (0-2), Mark Keane (0-2); Maurice Shanley, Tadhg Corkery (0-1), Cathal Maguire; Colm Barrett (0-1), Chris Óg Jones (0-7, 2f), Damien Gore (0-1) Subs: Sean O'Sullivan for Maguire, Killian Myers-Murray for Shanley, Matthew Bradley for Barrett, Mark Cronin for Gore, Alan McCarthy for O'Donovan (black card) and Liam Wall for Walsh.
Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)
The Game in 60 seconds
Official recognition for Stefan Okunbor, the second Man-of-the-Match award he has earned in Austin Stack Park in two months after getting the honour also for his performance in the Premier Junior Final between Na Gaeil and Beaufort. To get it on the winning side will make it a bit sweeter this time!
How Kerry responded to Dara Moynihan's black card midway through the second period was a big factor. Had they let it get to them they might have lost out with Cork's pressure starting to pile but they started the course and got the necessary nerve to overcome that setback and seeing out proceedings for a three point win.
In the interests of player welfare it was totally the right decision to allow for breaks in play for water. While not as warm as some of the other days in this present heatwave, a lot of humidity hung in the air and made it all the more difficult for the players as much as trying to take on their opposition.