Powerful Kingdom make a statement
Kerry 3-18 Cork 2-4
For Cork, by any measure, it was a mauling, a humiliating loss after the promise of an impressive Munster semi-final win over Tipperary only a few weeks earlier. Despite a great start when they scored two goals in the opening nine minutes, they were outclassed by a young Kerry team that delivered a performance loaded with promise. A new era may be dawning, even if Kerry will face stiffer tests than this.
The record books were thumbed long before the final whistle to see how it stood the test of time. The 17-point gap made it Kerry's biggest championship win over their rivals since 1938. On a beautiful summer's evening in a spanking new stadium there was no getting away from that cold reality illustrating the gulf between the teams.
Paul Geaney, after six points from play in the demolition of Clare, helped himself to a 2-5 personal feast and Kerry moved the ball around with an elegance and flair that was redolent of their best days. This was their sixth successive Munster senior title and while it is not unprecedented you have to go back to the days of Mick O'Dwyer and the feted teams of the 1970s to find a similar dominance.
Before the match, in the curtain-raiser, the Kerry minors routed Clare to win that provincial title for the sixth successive year. On Friday evening in the Munster under 20 semi-final, Kerry destroyed poor Waterford, allowing them one point over the entire match. A phase of Kerry rule looks imminent; it is surely only a question of how soon.
"They have real quality all over the field," admitted a crestfallen Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. "We knew we would have to play well. I felt that was in us. We did not do it and that was the most disappointing thing. But we can lie down and die now or get ready for a match in two weeks."
Cork haven't beaten Kerry in the championship since 2012, and in the six meetings since Kerry have won five with one draw. But the home team had a dream start and fuelled real hope of an upset when goals from Jamie O'Sullivan and Mark Collins in the second and ninth minutes exposed Kerry's defensive frailties. But then they stalled. After a point from Luke Connolly in the 10th minute Cork failed to score again until 16 minutes into the second half.
By half-time they were seven points adrift, clearly in trouble, and Kerry put the issue beyond doubt early into the restart when Geaney goaled and Sean O'Shea pointed a placed ball after David Clifford had another goal opportunity deflected out for a 45.
By then Cork had lost one of their key players, Ruairi Deane, to an unjustified black card nearing half-time. Deane set up both goals, first out-fielding Paul Murphy and laying the ball invitingly for O'Sullivan to palm to the net for the game's first score. He then made a run through the Kerry defence and laid on an almost replica finish for Collins.
In between Kerry hit back with a goal of their own. David Moran caught a Cork kick-out and claimed a mark, then picked out Stephen O'Brien who ran through weak Cork lines and planted the ball past Mark White. With Kerry pressing hard on the Cork kick-out, White had a difficult day on restarts, putting two directly over the sideline.
"Delighted to have won the Munster Championship," said the Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, "to have silverware on the table. Delighted we are the straight route into the quarter finals and the Super 8s. Cork, as we knew they would, came at us, and we were rocking a small bit, but I think in fairness the players steadied the ship."
Cork were dealt an early blow when Sam Ryan, Clifford's designated marker, went off on a black card, and set up with Stephen Cronin as a sweeper and Sean White dropped back behind the midfield. However, they were soon finding Kerry too difficult to handle in the ordinary exchanges. Their manager lamented the rate of first-half turnovers, counting 19.
Clifford had a better day than he had against Clare, and while he scored just two points he had a hand in three more in the first half, with Kerry going in at the interval ahead 1-11 to 2-1. Murphy moved up the field to score two points. After the early turmoil they settled in and began to dominate and dictate with alarming ease. The quality of their play simply shone through like the evening's sun.
Scorers - Kerry: P Geaney 2-5; S O'Shea (1f, 2 45s) 0-4; S O'Brien 1-0; J O'Donoghue (1f) 0-3; D Clifford, P Murphy 0-2; G White, BJ Keane 0-1. Cork: M Collins 1-1; J O'Sullivan 1-0; L Connolly (1f) 0-2; P Kelleher 0-1.
Kerry: S Murphy; J Foley, P Crowley, B Ó Beaglaoich; P Murphy, T Morley, G White; D Moran, J Barry; M Burns, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, J O'Donoghue. Subs: K McCarthy for O'Brien (BC, 27); D O'Sullivan for Burns (h-t); M Griffin for Foley (54); K Donaghy for Clifford (55); BJ Keane for O'Donoghue (59); K Young for Morley (64).
Cork: M White; S Ryan, J O'Sullivan, K Crowley; S Cronin, K Flahive, T Clancy; A Walsh, I Maguire; K O'Driscoll, S White, J O'Rourke; L Connolly, R Deane, M Collins. Subs: J Loughrey for Ryan (BC, 18); P Kerrigan for Deane (BC, 32); P Kelleher & B Hurley for O'Rourke & O'Driscoll (h-t); B O'Driscoll for Cronin (57); C O'Neill for Walsh (59).
Referee: C Brannigan (Down).
Sunday Indo Sport