First McGrath Cup win for Kerry since 2017 after 12-point win in front of 6,500 in Killarney
McGRATH CUP FINAL
Two first half goals, both sweetly tucked away by Dingle men, laid the foundation for Kerry to keep Cork in their place and claim their first McGrath Cup title in five years.
The silverware will be welcomed – especially by the newcomers to Jack O’Connor’s squad – and it is always welcome to keep the Rebels at bay, but the focus will already have switched to the Allianz League next week and Jack’s return to Newbridge where the natives will be keen to make it an uncomfortable return for the former manager.
As far as this McGrath Cup final is concerned, Kerry will take the win, Cork will park the defeat, and both will move one after much ado about nothing.
Kerry’s first goal arrived early and from a somewhat unlikely source – Tom O’Sullivan, the nominal corner back who appears to be given licence to roam. Club mate Paul Geaney slipped a pass over the Cork defence to O’Sullivan, who showed all the composure of an inside forward to tuck the ball past Micheal Martin to put Kerry 1-1 to no score ahead after four minutes.
Twenty-nine minutes later Geaney turned poacher, gathering Micheal Burns’s pass across the goal-mouth, selling a couple of side-steps to the Cork cover before beating Martin for the second time to put Kerry 2-7 to 0-5 ahead.
By half time the home side were 2-9 to 0-5 clear, rendering the second half an exercise in both teams seeing what they could extract from the second 35 minutes at an unusually crowded Fitzgerald Stadium for the time of year.
Quite what O’Connor and counterpart Kieth Ricken will take away from what petered out after a very competitive fist 20 minutes into a poor training spin is anyone’s guess. One imagines Kerry and Cork will more about themselves next weekend away to Kildare and Roscommon respectively, but of itself this McGrath Cup final will have been instructive in the lead-in to the League.
While the 2-17 scored speaks to Kerry’s forward riches, the concession of just 0-9 says much about the extra focus, one presumes, has been put into the rearguard action by O’Connor and his main coach Paddy Tally.
Kerry were well organised and structured here – as they were in the earlier rounds against Limerick and Tipperary – and it would appear to be a prelude for the season ahead.
Brian Hurley – who tormented Kerry early in last year’s Munster final – was again very lively at full forward for Cork and a fine point from him, and one from wing back Rory Maguire had Cork back in the contest at 1-5 to 0-4 after 22 minutes. However, the loss of Kevin O’Donovan to a black card put huge pressure on the visitors against a Kerry team – even with David Clifford on the bench – that was quickly finding it rhythm and spark.
Cork had almost weathered that 10-minute spell with 14 players when Geaney gathered Micheal Burns’ pass across the goal and the Dingle man, looking impressively sharp through this competition, beat Micheal Martin for the second time to give Kerry that 10-point lead at half time.
Thereafter it was damage limitation for Cork, and losing the second half 0-8 to 0-6 will be a small source of consolation for the Rebels. By the second water break Kerry were 2-15 to 0-9 ahead, David Clifford on the field and scoring two points.
Cork stuck to their task – something that pleased Ricken – and they carved out late scores from Mark Cronin, Hurley and Daniel Dineen, but it was Kerry’s day.
Next weekend the serious business starts, but O’Connor can head back to Newbridge next week confident that he already has a sound structure and a solid base in place. There was something in the region of 6,500 or so in Fitzgerald Stadium this afternoon, people just happy to be able to operate with a little more freedom as the pandemic-related restrictions were eased overnight.
One might say that the Kerry team were afforded a little too much freedom by Cork also, with the Rebels not quite in lock-down mode either.
KERRY: Shane Murphy (Dr Crokes), Dan O’Donoghue (Spa), Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue), Tom O’Sullivan 1-0 (Dingle), Paul Murphy (Rathmore), Tadhg Morley (Templenoe), Gavin White (Dr Crokes), Seán O’Shea 0-2 (f) (Kenmare Shamrocks), Adrian Spillane (Templenoe), Micheál Burns (Dr Crokes), Paudie Clifford 0-2 (Fossa), Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks), Tony Brosnan 0-3 (f) (Dr Crokes), Paul Geaney 1-4 (0-1f) (Dingle), Killian Spillane 0-2 (Templenoe)
Subs: Jack Savage 0-2 (Kerins O’Rahillys) for S O’Brien (inj, 6), Gavin Crowley (Templenoe) for P Murphy (ht), Brian Ó Beaglaioch (An Ghaeltacht) for D O’Donoghue (ht), Greg Horan (Austin Stacks) for A Spillane (46), David Clifford 0-2 (Fossa) for T Brosnan (46), Graham O’Sullivan (Piarsaigh na Dromoda) for G White, Dylan Casey (Austin Stacks) for G Crowley (inj, 55), Paul O’Shea (Kilcummin) for P Clifford (55), Darragh Roche (Glenflesk) for K Spillane (62), Cian Gammell (Killarney Legion) for T O’Sullivan (62)
CORK: Míchéal Martin (Nemo Rangers), Sean Powter (Douglas), Kieran Histon (Nemo Rangers), Tadhg Corkery (Cill na Martra), Rory Maguire 0-2 (Castlehaven), John Cooper (Eire Óg), Matthew Taylor (Mallow), Cian Kiely (Ballincollig), Joe Grimes (Clonakilty), Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), Blake Murphy (St. Vincent’s), Colm O’Callaghan (Eire Óg), Mark Cronin 0-3 (1f) (Nemo Rangers), Brian Hurley 0-5 (2f) (Castlehaven), Chris Óg Jones (Iveleary).
Subs: Damien Gore (Kilmacabea) for B Murphy (33), Luke Connolly (Nemo Rangers) for D Gore (inj, ht), David Buckley (Newcestown) for K O’Donovan (ht), Daniel O’Connell (Kanturk) for C Kiely (46), Daniel Dineen 0-1 (Cill na Martra) for C Jones (46), Shane Merrit (Mallow) for J Grimes (52), Kevin Crowley (Millstreet) for J Cooper (54), Paudie Allen (Newmarket) for T Corkery (56), Paul Ring (Aghabullogue) for S POwter (62)
Referee: Niall Quinn (Clare)