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Kerry beat Cork to claim fifth consecutive Munster football title

Joint captains Fionn Fitzgerald, left, and Johnny Buckley of Kerry lifting the cup after the Munster final win over Cork Picture by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Jason O'Connor in Killarney

Munster Senior Football Championship final: Kerry 1-23 Cork 0-15

KERRY once again got the better of Cork in Killarney to win a fifth consecutive Munster title and add to a fairly woeful time for the Rebel county.

The Leesiders are now without a Championship win over their great rivals since 2012 and are very much the poor relations of Munster’s traditional ‘big two’.

The Kingdom led from start to finish at Fitzgerald Stadium, with fast starts to both halves leaving Cork without a hope.

In the end Kerry ran out 11-point winners, but manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice refused to get carried away with the victory.

“While we won the game well there is still plenty to work on,” he said.

“I don’t think we closed the game out well after Fionn’s [Fitzgerald]injury and when the board went up for 10 minutes of additional time the edge seemed to go out of us as well.

“Certainly kick-outs and converting our goal chances are something we have to work on even though you do have to expect that you are not going to dominate a game forever.”

Fitzmaurice sprang something of a surprise by starting Kieran Donaghy at full-forward, with the decision made due to his impressive performances in training.

And the manager sent his team out fired up and expecting a tough game.

“You have to expect that a team will put it up to you in a Munster final,” he said.

“The days of taking opposition for granted is long gone, especially in the month of July. We treated this game with the same respect that we did against Clare in the

semi-Final and I think Clare’s win in the Qualifiers shows that they were a side deserving of such respect.”

The combination of Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue seemed to work well and the Kerry boss is content that they are finally getting an extended run together at senior level.

“We’re very happy to have Paul and James together again,” said Fitzmaurice.

“They are the same age and have come up together at minor and U21 level but matters have conspired that one has been missing at one point or another.”

Kerry now have four weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland quarter-final, and while Fitzmaurice would prefer to be in action again sooner, he doesn’t see it as a big problem.

“The gap is no major issue,” he said.

“Ideally you would like to be playing in two weeks but it’s a Qualifier draw that seems to be fraught with danger this year and that should be a good test of us when it comes.”

Given the nature of the defeat, it was no surprise Cork manager Peadar Healy cut a forlorn figure after the match.

“It’s a tough dressing room at the moment which is understandably hurting,” said the Rebels boss.

“Kerry deserved their win and controlled midfield, with the movement of their half-back line and inside forwards something we struggled to cope with.

“We didn’t take our goal chances which is something you need to do on a day like today. We’ve missed 19 this year and it is proving costly.

“Kerry got off to the start we would have wanted to. The only positive is that the players are getting some more game-time and experience but the Qualifiers will be a big challenge for us from here.”

The Kingdom came flying out of the traps and scored four points inside the opening four minutes.

Eight minutes were on the clock when Mark Collins put Cork on the scoreboard and they then had a decent chance to go level when Ian Maguire had a good sight of goal.

However, the midfielder fumbled the ball at the crucial moment and Brian Kelly was able to avert the danger.

Kerry’s extended the advantage to 0-8 to 0-2 midway through the first period before the visitors cut the deficit in half again.

Ken O’Halloran had to make a big save in the Cork goal to stop Kerry finding the back of the net in the first period as Kerry went in 0-11 to 0-7 to the good at the break.

On the resumption O’Halloran made a bizarre surge up the field only to be penalised for a double hop before David Moran slotted over a point with the Cork goalkeeper still rushing back to his goal.

Stephen O’Brien made a good impact off the bench by scoring three points as Kerry opened up an advantage of 0-16 to 0-7 before Paul Kerrigan had a shot at goal saved by Kelly, with sub Donnacha O’Connor putting the rebound over the bar.

An injury to Fionn Fitzgerald following an accidental clash of heads halted play for nearly 10 minutes which disrupted the rhythm of the game slightly, with a black card for Cork’s Jamie O’Sullivan doing likewise.

With the clock ticking down and the result in no doubt Mikey Geaney and Donaghy combined to send Paul Geaney through for a goal.

O’Halloran failed to keep the ball out. The extent of Kerry’s dominance was illustrated by Shane Enright coming forward for a score near the end, while Killian Young got some game-time as a replacement for the unfortunate Fitzgerald.

In all 10 different players scored for the Kingdom as Geaney (1-5) and O’Donoghue (0-7) combined for more than half of their scores.

They head to the last eight of the All-Ireland series with a strong sense of conviction, even if Cork offered very little resistance.

The Rebels now face a nervous wait now to see who they will meet in round four of the Qualifiers but, on the evidence of their unconvincing Munster campaign, they are unlikely to be a major force.

After watching the county’s minor win their provincial title, Kerry racked up the fifth Munster crown in -a-row and will feel confident they can have a huge say on the destination of Sam Maguire come September.

Kerry: B Kelly; F Fitzgerald, M Griffin, S Enright (0-1); P Crowley, T Morley, P Murphy (0-1); D Moran (0-1), A Maher (0-1); M Geaney (0-2, 0-1 45), K McCarthy, D Walsh; P Geaney (1-5, 0-1 free) K Donaghy (0-1), J O’Donoghue (0-7, 0-4 frees)

Subs: S O’Brien (0-3) for Walsh (h-t), J Buckley for McCarthy (39), Killian Young for Fitzgerald (temp, 50), J Barry for Maher (60), BJ Keane (0-1) for O’Donoghue (65), D O’Sullivan for Donaghy (67) and J Lyne for M Geaney (68).

Cork: K O’Halloran; J Loughrey,J O’Sullivan, S Powter; T Clancy (0-1), M Shields, K Crowley; A Walsh, I Maguire (0-1); R Deane, M Collins (0-2, 0-1 free), K O’Driscoll; N Coakley (0-2, frees), L Connolly (0-2, 0-1 free), P Kerrigan (0-1)

Subs: D O’Connor (0-6, 0-4 frees) for Coakley (h-t), A O’Connor for Deane (38), C O’Driscoll for Shields, M Hurley for O’Driscoll (both 44), S Cronin for Loughrey (64)

Yellow Cards: P Crowley, S O’Brien

Black Cards: J O’Sullivan (64), replaced by E Cadogan

Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)

Attendance: 31,836

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