Tuesday 22 October 2019

Seven in a row for Kerry but Keane is left with plenty to ponder over

Kerry 1-19 Cork 3-10

In the hunt: Kerry’s David Moran feels the squeeze as Cork duo Nathan Walsh and Ian Maguire compete for the ball during Saturday’s Munster SFC final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
In the hunt: Kerry’s David Moran feels the squeeze as Cork duo Nathan Walsh and Ian Maguire compete for the ball during Saturday’s Munster SFC final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Depending on your viewpoint, the glass is half full or half empty for Kerry as they head for the 'Super 8s' next month.

On the credit side of the ledger was their response to adversity. With a team that included five players playing in their first Munster final, they produced a mature final quarter when reduced to 14 men after the dismissal of one of their most experienced players in Paul Geaney.

Stephen O'Brien of Kerry is tackled by Sean White of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Stephen O'Brien of Kerry is tackled by Sean White of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

With momentum on Cork's side and Kerry down a man, the Kingdom's inexperienced line-up might have folded, but with big plays from Stephen O'Brien and David Clifford in attack and a renewed sense of collective effort in the rearguard, Peter Keane's men negotiated some choppy waters to secure a seventh consecutive Munster title and an 81st crown in total.

However, a shaky defensive display that saw them leak three goals and cough up another handful of decent chances to a Cork side who slipped into Division 3 just a couple of months ago, remains a major concern.

Having cut their concession rate way back in the league under Keane, old failings came back to haunt Kerry. A more ruthless team would have beaten them in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

"What did they get, 3-10?" Keane asked afterwards.

Sean O'Shea of Kerry and Stephen Cronin of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Sean O'Shea of Kerry and Stephen Cronin of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"It was 13 scores to 20 and you'd think from that that you'd be happy, but just the goal-scoring opportunities, we've got to stop them. If you look at some of them, particularly in the first-half, they were opportunities that came from us not killing the ball above and they had an overlap coming against us.

"Some of the opportunities that they didn't get off was because we recovered and got bodies in the way. You would have to praise that part of it too.

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"Us going up the field and not killing the ball, that was a killer, and we got turned over a few times. Tom O'Sullivan shot up the field one time, he made a great run, and Gavin White did it another time and then we lost the ball above.

"And then sure you're out of position. There are two defenders, and next thing you're out of position and they have an overlap and you're chasing your tail coming back.

"That, to me, was probably a factor in (the concession of goal chances)."

Kerry's willingness to get bodies forward was demonstrated by Tom O'Sullivan's haul of 1-1 in the first-half, while Gavin White also had a goal chance. However, Cork had four clear-cut goal chances in the first-half, taking just one.

In one sense, Kerry - who had opened up a 1-5 to 0-1 lead after just 13 minutes - were operating at maximum efficiency. They didn't kick a wide and also denied Cork a point from play. Still, their defence was suspect enough that even though the Rebels trailed by six points at the interval (1-10 to 1-4), they were by no means out of the fight.

Comeback

Kerry moved seven clear through Sean O'Shea, but Cork mounted a stirring comeback.

First Luke Connolly grabbed his second goal from a penalty after Killian O'Hanlon was fouled by Tadhg Morley with Kerry's defence cut open again. Sean White put three between the sides before Cork struck for goal number three. This time, Brian Hurley flicked to the net after getting between Morley and keeper Shane Ryan.

Kerry steadied the ship with points from Diarmuid O'Connor and Clifford before Geaney picked up a black card shortly after a yellow, which meant Kerry were down to 14.

And with the game in the balance, Cork's nerve seemed to desert them through poor shot selection and decision making. Stephen O'Brien grabbed two crucial points before Cork got back to within a point again as the clock ticked into injury time, but Micheál Burns and O'Shea landed the last two points of the day to leave Cork wondering.

"You give any top team a seven-point start, you are going to put yourself on the back foot," Cork manager Ronan McCarthy said.

"Obviously really pleased with the response and the way the team went after the game. Kerry were on 14 men for the last 10 minutes. Now, they had a cushion of a lead of three or four points at that stage.

"So look, hard to know what to make of it really. We came to win the game, that was our objective, we didn't and we are thoroughly disappointed."

So, three more games for Kerry and time to iron out any kinks. Keane believes his side will be better for the experience.

"I think we've a very, very young team, it's a team that we're trying to build. I think maybe there's a huge expectation on people because of the minor successes that has happened, which is great, you're not going to knock that or give it back.

"But by the same token... you had a half-forward line tonight, Diarmuid O'Connor is 20 this year, Seanie O'Shea is 21, Darragh Moynihan is 21 - like when do you see that at inter-county level? Three lads with an average age of 20-and-a-half?

"We have a very, very young team and I'm conscious that I'm repeating myself, but when I would have spoken to ye throughout the league, that was something that I was very conscious about.

"Four or five lads stepped away from Kerry at the start of the year or late last year and as a result of them stepping away, you lost experience on the field and how are these fellas going to get experience, only by throwing them in there and having a cut at it."

SCORERS - Kerry: S O'Shea 0-8 (6f); D Clifford 0-4 (1f); T O'Sullivan 1-1; S O'Brien 0-2; D Moynihan, D O'Connor, P Geaney, M Burns 0-1 each. Cork: M Collins 0-8 (6f); L Connolly 2-0 (1-0 pen); B Hurley 1-0; S White, J Loughrey 0-1 each.

Kerry - S Ryan 6; P Murphy 6, T Morley 7, J Foley 6; T O'Sullivan 7, J Sherwood 6, G White 6; D Moran 7, J Barry 6; D O'Connor 7, S O'Shea 8, D Moynihan 7; D Clifford 8, P Geaney 6, S O'Brien 8. Subs: G Crowley 7 for White (43), M Burns 7 for Moynihan (50), A Spillane 6 for Barry (53), B O Beaglaoich for O'Connor (66), M Griffin for O'Sullivan (68).

Cork - M White 7; J Loughrey 8, N Walsh 7, K Flahive 7; L O'Donovan 6, T Clancy 7, M Taylor 7; I Maguire 7, K O'Hanlon 7; P Kerrigan 6, S White 7, R Deane 8; L Connolly 7, B Hurley 7, M Collins 8. Subs: K O'Donovan 7 for Walsh (35), K O'Driscoll 6 for White, M Hurley 6 for B Hurley (both 59), S Sherlock for Connolly (66), A Browne for Taylor (68), S Cronin for Loughrey (69)

Ref - A Nolan (Wicklow)

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