Beating Kerry a big step but it is no more than that -- Counihan
CORK won the 2010 All-Ireland title via the back-door route but it wasn't a challenge they wanted to take on this year.
Victory yesterday has left them as overwhelming favourites to be in Croke Park for the All-Ireland quarter-finals in early August, and while Conor Counihan went through the ritual of warning that Clare will be dangerous opponents in the Munster final, the reality is that the season is warming up nicely for Cork.
"We always wanted to go the direct route if we could. But this is only a step along the way. Beating Kerry is always a big step but it's no more than that," said Counihan.
Still, he can see exactly what lies ahead, unlike Kerry, who won't know who their opponents will be in Round 2 of the qualifiers until the end of the month.
"The team will be written off but we've down that road before. There's still a lot of good work going on. We feel that if the players keep believing, they'll be okay," said Kerry manager Jack O'Connor.
He acknowledged that much would depend on the squad's attitude when they returned to training for the qualifiers but, on the basis of previous years when Kerry found themselves in this position, they tend to re-group quite quickly.
O'Connor was disappointed with Kerry's scoring rate, with the missed goal chances especially significant.
"Kicking 12 points doesn't win you too many games. There was a period in the first half in particular when we had some chances but didn't nail them. You need to against a team like Cork. When you don't, you get punished" he said.
Counihan admitted that goalkeeper Alan Quirke's saves were crucially important but then Cork have been defensively secure all season.
"Goals are psychologically important for any team and we've been fortunate that we haven't conceded too many this year," he said.
"If you can prevent goals, you're a long way there. I'd be a bit disappointed, though, that we haven't scored a few more goals."
Counihan was delighted with the composure shown by his team when Kerry came back at them at various stages.
"On some other days, we didn't always show the same level of composure and it cost us. We tried to boss things as best we could today and it worked fairly well," he said.
Donncha O'Connor enjoyed the win immensely, not least because it redressed the balance with the old enemy.
"The more times you beat Kerry, the happier you will be. Obviously they feel the same but it's our day this time," he said.
As for whether Kerry will resurface as real contenders later in the championship, Cork expect they will be involved in the business end of the campaign.
"I wouldn't be writing them off just yet," said Counihan.
O'Connor won't be writing off his wounded warriors either but the task of regaining the All-Ireland title is all the more difficult now. That doesn't say it won't be achieved.