GAA Football

Kingdom reign in the rain for third successive Munster crown

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice helped guide the Kingdom to their third successive Munster title on Saturday night
Kevin Hughes

Munster Senior Football Championship final: Kerry 1-11 Cork 1-06 (Fitzgerald Stadium)

THERE was something elemental about it, this clash of the titans.

It was a battle of wills as much as anything else as the rain tumbled down from the cloud-covered Reeks looming largely unseen over the old ground.

Conditions made it so, rain like that, voluminous rain, tended to dictate the tempo of a game.

It was a dogfight right from the off. A battle of breaks and turnovers. Handling errors were to be expected, the rain pelted down and, while the surface of the pitch in Fitzgerald Stadium remained immaculate, the ball took on all the qualities of a bar of soap.

Given all that both teams served up a game to be proud of. It was, save for the final few minutes, never anything but enthralling. Some of the scores, on both sides, were top drawer.

Sure, the rain was the dominant factor on Saturday evening, but there, just behind, was the burning desire of Cork and Kerry. For all their desire to end a 20-year losing streak in Killarney, Cork’s hunger was at least matched by Kerry’s.

The Kingdom battled every bit as hard for that turnover ball and, aside from a couple of shaky moments before half-time when Paul Kerrigan nabbed a goal and Brian O’Driscoll forced an exquisite save from Brendan Kealy, they defended superbly.

Corner-back Shane Enright was the stand-out performer for the champions, clamping down Brian Hurley magnificently.

That was one of the themes of the day for Kerry.

With two weeks to prepare for the rematch, Eamonn Fitzmaurice clearly had his homework done. Alan O’Connor simply wasn’t allowed to be as dominant a presence in this game as the last.

Anthony Maher negated him fully and with Kealy directing all his kick-outs away from the St Colum’s man, David Moran had a stormer on Kevin O’Driscoll. Having bossed the game at midfield in the drawn game, Cork’s starting midfield had a negligible effect on the game this time around.

And, yet, for all that this was still very much a live game with nearly half an hour to go. Kerry’s forwards looked lively, but, with ball raining (pun not indented) down on Donaghy to little effect, Kerry looked oddly one dimensional.

That all changed when Fitzmaurice sprang a certain Colm Cooper (inset) from the bench. It brought a change of emphasis and, more importantly than that, a touch of genius that turned the game in Kerry’s favour with that quick fre-kick which led to Paul Geaney’s goal.

“We know that he’s going to do things like that,” Fitzmaurice noted.

“He gave great presence and leadership when he came on. A great pass for the goal. I think you have to give Donnchadh [Walsh] a lot of credit as well for making the run and being accurate with his delivery afterwards, so of course, yeah, Colm had a massive impact. [It was] great for him to get another 30 minutes of that kind of stuff under his belt.”

Given that Cork failed again to score in the wake of Geaney’s goal, it’s probably fair to say it killed this game as a contest and, yet, on a day such as this anything could have happened. Cork, however, seemed strangely out of ideas.

Even with Kerry on top round the middle, it wasn’t as though they lacked for possession. They simply lacked the ideas with which to make the most of it. Early in the second half Colm O’Neill scored a wonderful point off Marc Ó Sé. He hardly saw the ball again after that. A curious failure to make the most of what you’ve got.

In the end, Kerry’s tormentor of two weeks ago, Alan O’Connor, was pushed up to full-forward where again he found Maher his constant companion.

Frustrated and out of ideas Kildare now await the Rebels. For Kerry and Fitzmaurice it’s a third Munster title in as many years.

Not bad, not bad at all.

MATCH STATS

Kerry: B Kealy, M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright, J Lyne (0-1), K Young, P Murphy, A Maher, D Moran, J Buckley, B Sheehan (0-5f), D Walsh (0-1), P Geaney (1-3, 1-0 free), K Donaghy, J O’Donoghue (0-1)

Subs: M Geaney for J Buckey (inj, 21), C Cooper for K Donaghy (44), S O’Brien for B Sheehan (57), BJ Keane for P Geaney (62), P Galvin for D Walsh (65), P Crowley for K Young, 67

Cork: K O’Halloran, M Shields, J O’Sullivan, J Loughrey, Barry O’Driscoll, Brian O’Driscoll (0-1), S Cronin, A O’Connor, K O’Driscoll (0-1), P Kerrigan (1-0), P Kelly, D O’Connor (0-1f), C O’Neill (0-3, 2f), M Collins, B Hurley Subs: F Goold for D O’Connor, 46, C Dorman for K O’Driscoll, 54, D Goulding for P Kelly, 59, T Clancy for Barry O’Driscoll, 65, JHayes for B Hurley, 66

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

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