Wednesday 12 December 2018

Kerry leave neighbours in a state of shock

Kerry 3-18 Cork 2-4

Paul Geaney scores Kerry’s second goal despite the efforts of Jamie O’Sullivan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Paul Geaney scores Kerry’s second goal despite the efforts of Jamie O’Sullivan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Just as well that the action got going in the Marquee on the other side of the City End terrace in Páirc Uí Chaoimh when it did.

As the confluence of DJ Jenny Greene and the RTE Orchestra began to reverberate from the big top across the evening sky, complete with cheers of approval from their crowd, it at least vaguely filled the atmospheric deficit which had developed next door, especially for those hard-pressed Cork football supporters among the 27,764 crowd.

Kieran Donaghy of Kerry is tackled by Jamie O'Sullivan of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Kieran Donaghy of Kerry is tackled by Jamie O'Sullivan of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

They came in their droves to see the first championship football match in four years at the 'Páirc' - it's unlikely they'll be back in such numbers again any time soon.

That oft-used platitude from across the border is officially defunct. Cork are no longer Cork. Not even the most patronising Kerry man or woman can throw that one out any more. Any conversation relating to this rivalry in the immediate future must factor that in.

Margin

On a weekend when their U-20s thrashed Waterford by 31 points, their minors (U-17s) won a fifth successive provincial minor title by 20 points, the Kerry seniors produced their second largest margin of victory over Cork (17 points) since 1938.

What's more, a new-look Kingdom side will look back on the evening and wonder where another potential 3-5 or 3-6 went and sense significant room for improvement.

Paul Geaney of Kerry scoring his side's third goal despite the efforts of Mark White of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Paul Geaney of Kerry scoring his side's third goal despite the efforts of Mark White of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Any suppression of Leinster football that Dublin have is being mirrored in Munster now, perhaps even more emphatically the way underage results can be projected for the future.

In fact the odds on Dublin being knocked off their provincial perch before Kerry - however long into the future that may be - will have shortened considerably.

Cork left a decaying Páirc Uí Chaoimh four years ago with the humiliation of James O'Donoghue running riot to engineer a double-scores Munster final win in their memory. Their return on Saturday night was far worse than that.

After a bright start that saw Ruairi Deane create almost identical goals for Jamie O'Sullivan and Mark Collins in the opening 10 minutes to open an early lead, they disintegrated into a rabble as Kerry clicked into gear and played at an unforgiving pace.

Paul Murphy of Kerry in action against Sean White of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Paul Murphy of Kerry in action against Sean White of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Cork just couldn't live with that and it forced mistake after mistake - Cork manager Ronan McCarthy estimated they were turned over 19 times in the opening half - that wore them down and eventually dispirited them.

Speed is at the heart of Kerry's new construction. Lots of it. Not just speed of movement but speed of thought. Everything they did had a quickening step to it.

Six players were playing a Munster final for the first time but once they dusted themselves down after that opening Cork salvo, you'd never have known it.

Clare and Cork may not be the most accurate barometer, but so far in their two Munster Championship games Kerry have done more than has been expected of them.

Mark White of Cork in action against Paul Geaney of Kerry. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Mark White of Cork in action against Paul Geaney of Kerry. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Their full-forward line, in which there is such rich potential if they develop together and stay fit, contributed 2-10 between them, the imperious Paul Geaney scoring 2-5.

David Clifford showed plenty of nice touches, scored two points and directly set up three first-half points. But he mixed that with two wides and two shots dropped short and was policed much better by James Loughrey, who replaced the black-carded Sam Ryan after 18 minutes.

Referee Ciaran Branagan issued three black cards in all, the most contentious being Deane's in the 32nd minute for his collision with Jason Foley. Deliberate? It really didn't look that way and while Kerry had already stretched six points clear - they hit nine in succession after Luke Connolly had put Cork two clear, 2-1 to 1-2, after 10 minutes - the loss of their most influential player really hit Cork.

In half-back Gavin White Kerry arguably had their most penetrative runner while manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice suggested afterwards that Brian O Beaglaoich had his best game in a Kerry jersey. Foley stood up to the task of marking first Connolly and later Brian Hurley, who came on a substitute at the break.

David Moran provided a great physical presence while Paul Murphy was a model of composure, helping to push up on the Cork kick-out and win possession from 13 of the 28 Mark White despatched. From the first they claimed, David Moran marked and set up O'Brien's wonderful opening goal after just four minutes, the perfect response to O'Sullivan's effort.

Off the bench Kerry had a big impact from Kevin McCarthy, Stephen O'Brien's replacement after the Kenmare man was black carded in the 26th minute.

And then there was Kieran Donaghy's entrance for the last quarter, forcing a shift in emphasis as Kerry switched to a tried and trusted tactic.

For Donaghy, the excitement now in Kerry is palpable with young men who know no fear.

"They're all the winners, they've won two All-Ireland minors, they've Hogan Cups. They're just winners," beamed Donaghy.

"When you're a winner like that and you've come into a set-up, as good as they are they know how they play the game and I think minor coaching is gone to such a level now that when they come in it's not the step up it was 15 years ago. Their body shape is also allowing them to come in, they're on weights since they were 14."

He cautioned about the lessons to be extracted in the weeks ahead, but further road-tests in a new-look championship can only benefit Kerry.

"You just hope they keep their heads down and keep working and keep getting better and keep striving to get the Kerry jersey to where it's going to be over the next decade or two. They're an exceptional bunch, four minor teams in-a-row coming through and the U-17s out there today aren't too bad either. Kerry football never really takes too much of a dip."

Palpable

For McCarthy the disappointment afterwards was palpable. None of them saw this coming.

"They're probably a bit shellshocked. No-one was saying that we expected to come out and win by 10 points like we did against Tipp but we felt we would be competitive. They felt that.

"People are on about three-year terms and all of that. That performance has nothing to do with three-year terms.

"Actually, I'm not interested in a three-year term. I'm interested in getting the max out of this season that we could get out of it.

"Let's acknowledge the opposition, they have real quality all over the field. They've an outstanding manager, he's tactically very astute. So we knew we'd have to play well but I felt that was in us. And we didn't do it. That is the most disappointing thing."

Scorers - Kerry: P Geaney 2-5, S O'Shea 0-4 (2 45s, 1 f), S O'Brien 1-0, J O'Donoghue 0-3 (1f), D Clifford, P Murphy 0-2 each, G White, BJ Keane 0-1 each. Cork: M Collins 1-1, J O'Sullivan 1-0, L Connolly 0-2 (1f), P Kelleher 0-1.

Kerry - S Murphy 7; J Foley 8,T Morley 7, B O Beaglaoich 8; P Crowley 7, P Murphy 8, G White 8; D Moran 8, J Barry 7; M Burns 6, S O'Shea 7, S O'Brien 7; D Clifford 7, P Geaney 9, J O'Donoghue 7. Subs: K McCarthy 8 for O'Brien b-c (26), D O'Sullivan 7 for Burns (h-t), M Griffin 7 for Foley (53), K Donaghy 7 for Clifford (55), K Young for Morley (64).

Cork - M White 7; K Crowley 6, J O'Sullivan 6, S Ryan 5; S Cronin 5, K Flahive 6, T Clancy 6; A Walsh 6, I Maguire 7; K O'Driscoll 5, S White 5, R Deane 7; J O'Rourke 5, M Collins 6, L Connolly 6. Subs: J Loughrey 6 for Ryan b-c (21), P Kerrigan 7 for Deane b-c (35), P Kelliher 6 for O'Rourke (h-t), B Hurley 6 for O'Driscoll (h-t), B O'Driscoll 6 for Cronin (57), C O'Neill 5 for Walsh (58),

Ref - C Branagan (Down)

 

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