Hurley gets top marks in Rebels' lesson for rivals
CORK 2-18 KERRY 1-11, Allianz NFL Division 1
On a day when Cork summoned the whole rainbow of their creative talents, the David Attenboroughs of the media corps dug deep into dusty files to proclaim this Kerry's heaviest fall to their neighbours since the 1990 Munster final.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice's men hurried for cover when it was over, aborting any plans for a warm-down in preference, presumably, for a communal tub of Swarfega. They had looked listless and lost in the pale Tralee sunshine, taken apart by opponents who left their handwriting on just about everything good seen in Austin Stack Park.
If there was a stewards' room, Fitzmaurice might have been called in to explain the spectacle of locals spilling down the steps of the stand with 10 minutes still remaining.
Yet, he was adamant afterwards that a football game between Kerry against Cork would never need context for an authentic pulse.
"You know it's Cork, it's at home," he sighed, assuming the sentence to be self-explanatory. "So we were up for it, but they were more up for it for whatever reason. We can't allow displays like that to happen. We'll talk about it during the week and we'll get to the bottom of it. I wouldn't be happy with it, but I'd be happy with the squad I have."
Kerry have 11 weeks now to kick their heels until championship, while Brian Cuthbert's increasingly impressive young Cork team torques into a Croke Park semi-final against Dublin next Sunday. For the Cork manager, that challenge is a reward in itself.
"I would adore going to Croke Park again, to be honest," he reflected after. "I think it suits the guys I have down to the ground. The more times we get up there, the better it is for us. We are on a massive learning curve, a huge learning curve."
They looked like A-students here, parsing their football with clever, short passes against the breeze in a first half during which their only palpable area of concern was James O'Donoghue's ability to draw Michael Shields into the odd intemperate lunge. That battle alone in that half was, dare we say, all but worth a pay-per-view subscription, O'Donoghue getting the better of Shields whenever the ball played in offered opportunity.
But the longer the day went on, the less opportunity came gusting his way. Shields was on a booking by the time he was taken off with 10 minutes remaining, but the game had long since shed the illusion of a contest and O'Donoghue had long since resigned himself to disappointment.
Brian Hurley was Cork's star turn, kicking seven points from play-off either foot and exposing Kerry full-back Mark Griffin to the kind of day that leaves a man looking for the solitude of a dark room. To be fair, Griffin got little protection further out the field from team-mates who – almost to a man – seemed entrapped by a collective torpor.
Despite having the benefit of the wind, Kerry trailed by a point at half-time, the momentum gained from Paul Geaney's 30th-minute goal lasting a mere six minutes before Paul Kerrigan burst onto John Hayes' pass to drill an unstoppable shot into the town end goal.
For Fitzmaurice, if the feeling in his waters then was disconcerting, he couldn't have imagined what was coming over the hill.
"I didn't, but I think even the first half wasn't great to be honest," he would reflect later.
"The goal we got before half-time probably kept us in the game. From the outset we were poor today, second to every ball, we looked dead on our feet, we just didn't seem to have any life or energy about our performance. I think we were probably lucky at half-time to go in just a point down."
They were too. But that luck was about to run dry.
Cork moved almost impassively up through the gears, dominating midfield and luxuriating in the spectacle of Hurley giving one of those one-man exhibitions that ought really be put to music. Between the 45th and 52nd minutes, Hurley kicked four gorgeous scores (two off either foot), prompting Fitzmaurice to try putting him in Fionn Fitzgerald's care.
Short of an elephant gun, nothing was really going to work here and, like a card shark with an unbeatable hand, Cuthbert began throwing aces on the table.
On in quick succession came Daniel Goulding, Colm O'Neill and Donncha O'Connor, a show of armoury made all the more forbidding to local eyes by the sight of Darran O'Sullivan being helped ashore with what looked a torn hamstring after just seven minutes of a high-energy return from injury.
With his first touch of the ball, O'Neill dinked a lovely 51st-minute finish inside Brian Kelly's far post after a another knifing Kerrigan run, and thereafter the only matter for negotiation was the scale of the hit to Kerry's pride.
They go to a hot-weather training camp in Portugal on Thursday week and Fitzmaurice said he was hopeful that men like Declan O'Sullivan, Kieran Donaghy and Killian Young will soon be back pushing for places.
But yesterday gave the impression of stark worries now trailing a Kerry team denied the disparate leadership talents of men like 'Gooch' Cooper, Paul Galvin and Tomas O Se for the first time in an age.
Worse, they saw in Cork the sight of old neighbours packing confidently for summer.
SCORERS – Cork: B Hurley 0-8 (1f), P Kerrigan 1-3, C O'Neill 1-0, J Hayes 0-2, D Cahalane, F Goold, D Goulding, C O'Driscoll, D O'Connor 0-1 each. Kerry: P Geaney 1-2 (0-2fs), J O'Donoghue 0-4 (2f), P Crowley, D Moran, D Casey, S O'Brien, B Sheehan (f) 0-1 each.
CORK – K O Halloran 7; M Shields 7, J O Sullivan 7, Tom Clancy 7; J Loughrey 8, P Kelly 7, D Cahalane 8, F Goold 8, A O'Sullivan 8, C O'Driscoll 7, M Collins 7, P Kerrigan 8, B O'Driscoll 7, B Hurley 9, J Hayes 8. Subs: D Goulding 7 for C O'Driscoll (45), C O'Neill 7 for Hayes (50), D O'Connor 7 for A O'Sullivan (51), Tomas Clancy for Shields (60), M O Laoire for B O'Driscoll, R O'Sullivan for Kelly (both 67).
KERRY – B Kelly 7; P Murphy 6, M Griffin 5, S Enright 6; P Crowley 7, F Fitzgerald 6, M O Se 6; A Maher 6, D Moran 7; D Walsh 6, D Casey 6, K O'Leary 6; S O'Brien 7, P Geaney 7, J O'Donoghue 7. Subs: Darran O'Sullivan for Walsh (31), J Buckley 6 for Maher (h-t), B Sheehan 6 for Darran O'Sullivan (38), J Sherwood 6 for O Se (45), BJ Keane 7 for Geaney (54), A O'Mahony 6 for Griffin (53).
Ref – E Kinsella (Laois)
National League – winners and losers
Dublin and Mayo could be on track for a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final in the Allianz NFL Division 1 final on April 27 after booking semi-final places on opposite sides of the draw.
Defending champions Dublin edged into fourth place with a dramatic win over Tyrone, leaving them with a semi-final date against table-toppers Cork next Sunday. Second-placed Derry will face Mayo in a rerun of yesterday's game, which James Horan's men won.
Yesterday was a sad occasion for Armagh who will be in Division 3 next year after finishing seventh in Division 2. Longford's downward spiral continued too as their defeat to Wexford sees them drop from Division 3 to Division 4, after slipping from 2 to 3 last year.
2014 Allianz Football League – Winners and Losers
Division 1 semi-finals – Cork v Dublin; Derry v Mayo Relegated: Kildare, Westmeath
Division 2 – Promoted: Donegal, Monaghan Relegated: Armagh, Louth
Division 3 – Promoted: Cavan, Roscommon Relegated: Offaly, Longford
Division 4 – Promoted: Tipperary, Clare