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big win Kerry run riot to thump Cork by 22 points and clinch Munster title

Kerry 4-22 Cork 1-9


Paul Geaney of Kerry celebrates with team-mate David Clifford after their victory over Cork

Paul Geaney of Kerry celebrates with team-mate David Clifford after their victory over Cork

Paul Geaney of Kerry celebrates with team-mate David Clifford after their victory over Cork

PREDICTABLE result, but surely not the expected margin – this 22-point capitulation represented Cork’s heaviest ever defeat in Killarney.

What made it all the more remarkable was the fact that the visitors had the temerity to lead by five points after Brian Hurley’s 17th minute goal, and by four at the first water break.

But that was the start and end of Cork’s flickering resistance. They lost the second quarter by 1-8 to 0-2, and a grisly second half by 3-10 to 0-2.

Something equally surreal: Kerry regained their Munster SFC crown after last year’s disaster despite David Clifford failing to score from play, his only score on an uncharacteristic day coming via a tap-over free in the 61st minute.

Not that it mattered on a day when 12 other Kerrymen scored from play, Seán O’Shea leading the way with 1-6, Paul Geaney chipping in with 2-1, while Brian Ó Beaglaoich, marauding forward from corner-back, opened their green flag account with a superb solo goal in the 33rd minute.

The pre-match debate was all about revenge served cold on a sweltering day in the Kingdom.

Cork, orchestrators of that famous smash-and-grab by the Lee last November, were 9/1 outsiders before throw-in.

Bizarre? Perhaps, but far less surreal in the context of what happened next in the Munster final against Tipperary (when the ambushers became the ‘ambushees’); Cork’s erratic 2021 form to date, coinciding with Kerry’s palpable improvement.

In sharing the league title with Dublin, they had reaffirmed their position as the most likely – arguably the only – team capable of ending six years of continuous Sky Blue rule.

They had seen off Clare and then Tipperary without any hint of trouble. Defence has long been perceived as their Achilles heel – a fear reinforced by Dublin’s far-too-easy plundering of four goals when they met in Thurles back in May.

On the positive flip side, Kerry still rescued a morale-boosting draw that day while some of their backs have looked physically stronger this season; Paudie Clifford’s compelling bundle of energy and vision has added a new dynamic to a forward line already imbued with riches; while their bench now appears to have options in every line.

So much for the pre-match theories … after 17 minutes Cork led by 1-5 to 0-3, 1-2 of that tally stemming from Kerry turnovers. Local diehards in the capped 2,500 attendance were squinting through the glaring sun at an appalling back-to-back vista and a first Killarney championship defeat to the old enemy since 1995.

Contrary to all the bookmakers’ pessimism, Cork were first out of the blocks with an early brace from Michael Hurley, a late call-up, followed by a seventh minute mark from Daniel Dineen.

Kerry had their chances in between this early Cork flurry of points, Seán O’Shea forcing a save from Michéal Martin - albeit it wasn’t a clear goalscoring chance.

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The Cork ‘keeper had a lot more to do when Paudie Clifford’s perfectly weighted handpass released his illustrious younger brother on the loop; David pulled the trigger with his trusty left but Martin was equal to it.

It took eight minutes before an O’Shea free finally opened Kerry’s account; then Paul Geaney fisted over their second.

But the underdogs kept snapping at Kerry heels, and soon it was the turn of the other Hurley, Brian, to morph into their tormentor-in-chief.

They were already two clear when Ian Maguire ghosted past an over-committed Gavin White and fed the elder Hurley up the right wing; he took on the increasingly harassed Jason Foley and burned him for paceS, cutting in to slip a cute low finish past Shane Ryan.

Kerry were now reaching for the smelling salts but Paudie Clifford, one of their few bright starts in that opening quarter, pointed before the water break to leave it 1-5 to 0-4.

Soon after, Brian Hurley brought his personal haul to 1-2 but the second quarter belonged to Kerry, who won it by 1-8 to 0-2 as Cork misses became ever more costly.

Seán O’Shea clipped three points from play in that period, the second of which gave Kerry the lead (at 0-10 to 1-6) on the half-hour.

The sides were level again when Ó Beaglaoich started a move also involving David Moran and the lively Mike Breen, who fed the corner-back on the burst. He carried, and kept on carrying as the space opened up, before dispatching a clinical low shot.

Kerry kept pushing on to lead by 1-12 to 1-7 at the break. Cork swapped ‘keepers at the midpoint, Mark White coming on for Collins, who may have been injured; he had made three saves but struggled with his first half kickouts.

Not that White had any chance of stopping the onslaught that followed, as O’Shea fed Geaney for his first goal (39th minute). Two more followed over the next eight minutes, O’Shea fisting home at the far post following a superb assist from Paudie Clifford (46 minutes), then Geaney bundling home from point blank range (47).

The latter move was initiated by the marauding Gavin White, then carried on by O’Shea before Tom O’Sullivan’s fresh air as he was tackled saw the ball drop to Geaney.

Ian Maguire ended 26 barren minutes for Cork, but a slew of more Kerrymen then got in on the scoring act. The Rebels’ day of misery was complete on 74 minutes when Ruairí Deane received a straight red card for tangling off the ball with Tommy Walsh, who was booked.

Kerry march on, shaken and stirred, to meet either Tyrone or Monaghan in the All-Ireland semi-final. What next for Cork boss Ronan McCarthy is anyone’s guess.

SCORERS – Kerry: S O’Shea 1-6 (3f), P Geaney 2-1, B Ó Beaglaoich 1-0, P Clifford 0-3, T O’Sullivan, J Barry, K Spillane 0-2 each, D Moran, D Clifford (f), S O’Brien, T Morley, M Breen, T Walsh 0-1 each.

Cork: B Hurley 1-3 (1f), M Hurley 0-2, D Dineen (m), B Hartnett, L Connolly, I Maguire 0-1 each.

KERRY – S Ryan; B Ó Beaglaoich, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; M Breen, P Murphy, G White; D Moran, D O’Connor; J Barry, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, P Clifford. Subs: K Spillane for O’Connor (inj 18), T Walsh for O’Brien (temp 45-57), G O’Sullivan for O Beaglaoich (temp 53-58) , M Burns for D Clifford (temp 55-58), A Spillane for Barry (56), T Walsh for Geaney (57), G Crowley for O’Sullivan (64), T Morley for White (66).

CORK – M Martin; K O’Donovan, K Flahive, S Meehan; C Kiely, S Powter, M Taylor; I Maguire, B Hartnett; J O’Rourke, L Connolly, R Deane; D Dineen, B Hurley, M Hurley. Subs: M White for Martin (ht), M Collins for Connolly (41), C O’Callaghan for Dineen (43), K O’Driscoll for M Hurley (47), K Crowley for O’Donovan (51).

REF – B Cassidy (Derry)

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