Kerry made it five Munster titles in a row with a comfortable 1-23 to 0-15 victory over Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney.
In doing so Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men flexed a very sizable muscle that they are serious challengers for Sam this year, as they swept Cork aside, and the message will have been received loud and clear in Dublin, as was the intention.
After last year’s two-point All Ireland semi-final defeat, Kerry are shaping up for a possible rematch and following the Dubs’ hammering of Westmeath, the Kingdom responded in equally impressive style.
Just how much Fitzmaurice can take from this Munster title victory remains to be seen, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and Kerry did with impressiveness.
Kerry needed just 12 seconds to take the lead with Paul Geaney pointing. Geaney then turned provider to set up his cousin Mikey with full back Mark Griffin then charging up field to set up James O’Donoghue, and the signs were already looking ominous for Cork. Ten minutes in and the Kingdom led 0-6 to 0-1.
Cork were six adrift, 0-8 to 0-2, after 18 minutes but points from Ian Maguire, Niall Coakley (two frees) and Luke Connolly (free) kept the Rebels in contention, as they closed the gap to 0-8 to 0-6.
Tomas Clancy’s 36th minute point made it 0-10 to 0-7, but Paul Geaney then coolly worked the space and angle to score and give Kerry a four-point cushion at half-time.
Cork still had hope, but that was ruthlessly extinguished within three minutes of the restart, as Kerry rattled off four quick-fire points through substitute Stephen O’Brien (2), David Moran and O’Donoghue.
A Cork goal might have made things interesting but Clancy smacked his shot into the side-netting. Donncha O’Connor kept the scoreboard ticking over for Cork, scoring six points in the closing quarter, but Kerry underlined their dominance when Paul Geaney bundled the ball past O’Halloran for the game’s only goal.
“We were even enough in the first half, they’d a good enough second quarter,” Kerry’s Paul Murphy told RTÉ Sport.
“We had the aid of a bit of a breeze in the second half and we started very well and we just put a gap between the two teams and we maintained that gap for much of the second half.
“We allowed them too much space at times and if you allow Cork that they’re excellent footballers. We weren’t surprised that they came with such a challenge at all.
“Maybe we weren’t home and hosed but Paul’s goal put the gloss on the performance, put more of a gap between us.”
Scorers for Kerry: Paul Geaney 1-5 (0-1f), James O’Donoghue 0-7 (4f), Stephen O’Brien 0-3, Mikey Geaney 0-2 (1 ’45’), Shane Enright 0-1, Paul Murphy 0-1, David Moran 0-1, Anthony Maher 0-1, Kieran Donaghy 0-1, Barry John Keane 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: Donncha O’Connor 0-6 (4f), Mark Collins 0-2 (1f), Luke Connolly 0-2 (1f), Niall Coakley 0-2 (2f) Tomas Clancy 0-1, Ian Maguire 0-1, Paul Kerrigan 0-1
KERRY: Brian Kelly, Fionn Fitzgerald, Mark Griffin, Shane Enright, Peter Crowley, Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy, David Moran, Anthony Maher, Michael Geaney, Kevin McCarthy, Donnchadh Walsh, Paul Geaney, Kieran Donaghy, James O’Donoghue. Subs: Stephen O’Brien for D Walsh (ht), Johnny Buckley for K McCarthy (41 mins), Killian Young for F Fitzgerald (blood, 50 mins), Jack Barry for A Maher (59 mins), Barry John Keane for J O’Donoghue (63 mins), Darran O’Sullivan for K Donaghy (64 mins), Jonathan Lyne for M Geaney (65 mins).
CORK: Ken O’Halloran, James Loughrey, Jamie O’Sullivan, Sean Powter, Tomas Clancy, Michael Shields, Kevin Crowley, Aidan Walsh, Ian Maguire, Ruairi Deane, Mark Collins, Kevin O’Driscoll, Niall Coakley, Luke Connolly, Paul Kerrigan. Subs: Donncha O’Connor for N Coakley (ht), Alan O’Connor for R Deane (38 mins), Colm O’Driscoll for M Shields (41 mins), Michael Hurley for K O’Driscoll (45 mins), Eoin Cadogan for J O’Sullivan (b/c, 63 mins), Stephen Cronin for J Loughrey (inj, 63 mins).
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