Kerry eased into the final of the Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Football Championship, beating a mediocre Cork team 0-15 to 0-07 in front of a 30,000-strong crowd in Killarney today. The Rebels' lack of guile and fluidity was blatantly exposed, and they were often profligate with the chances they did fashion. The same criticism could be levelled at Kerry, who shot 14 wides. However, they could afford to with Mike Frank Russell in mesmerising form, notching 0-07 in total. Cork had no answer to Kerry's stylish possession game as the Kingdom, and in particular Russell and Colin Cooper, signalled another warning to this year's All-Ireland hopefuls.
It was a fiery opening from the Rebels although the movement of inside forwards Conor McCarthy and Alan Cronin was undermined by the distinct lack of a scoring touch. Michaél Ó Cróinín drew a first minute free from the 20-metre line to the left and wide of Dingle ‘keeper Diarmuid Murphy’s uprights.
Ó Cróinín did settle and managed a high over on nine minutes off his left foot, but the Rebels could only score two further points in the half through Cronin and Ó Cróinín, with 20 minutes between each score.
Both sides managed two wides inside the first five minutes before a sharp 30-metre ball from McCarthy saw Colin Crowley gather and force a smart foot save from Murphy a minute later.
Gradually Kerry became more dominant though. Russell struck a 13-metre free over off the ground in the eighth minute before Cork went 0-02 to 0-01 in front with points from Ó Cróinín and Alan Cronin efforts.
Russell squared it up with a 20-metre free on 16 minutes and a brace of points from distance from Cooper, finally getting space and time ahead of marker Noel O’Leary, saw them into the lead. Cooper, who lines out for the Kerry under-21s next Wednesday against Clare, pointed on 21 minutes before Eoin Brosnan added to the Kerry tally two minutes later.
The struggling O’Leary brought down Declan O’Sullivan for Russell to point a third free on 24 minutes and five minutes later, off his right foot, and 56 yards out, the Laune Rangers man made no mistake to make it 0-07 to 0-02.
A point from Ó Cróinín closed the gap to four on 31 minutes. The closing action of the first half was the production of three yellow cards for Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Conor McCarthy for rough play Cork's Graham Canty, for an off-the-ball punch.
Ó Cróinín restarted the game with a close range free. Kerry replied with four straight points in the next ten minutes, with the scores coming from Kirby, who got on the end of a Dara Ó Cinnéide cross-field pass, Russell, who took one from play and one from a placed ball, and the last from Cooper - his third of the match. In between Ó Cróinín missed a fourth free and Kirby robbed Derek Kavanagh to set Declan O’Sullivan up for a goal chance on 46 minutes which came off the crossbar and away to safety.
Jack O’Connor’s charges, now in full flow, made it a seven-point game by the hour mark with Russell (free), skipper Tomas Ó Sé and Kirby, with a 57th minute fist-over, all scoring. Cork substitute Kevin McMahon, the highly rated Carbery Ranger, knocked over to keep Cork in the game but even the introduction of Fionán Murray failed to get a significant return from the Kerry rearguard.
Seamus Moynihan broke through to find Russell for his seventh point and, with Ó Cinnéide bending over from the right wing, Kerry were home and dry. Ó Cróinín, substitute Michael O’Sullivan and McCarthy pointed in the closing stages, but it’s the qualifiers again for the men in red.
Kerry: D Murphy; T O'Sullivan, M McCarthy, A O'Mahony; T O Sé, E Fitzmaurice, S Moynihan; D O'Sé, W Kirby; L Hassett, D O'Sullivan, E Brosnan; C Cooper, J Crowley, MF Russell. Subs used: D Ó Cinnéide for Crowley (ht), P Galvin for E Brosnan (61 mins), M O Sé for O’Mahony (67 mins)
Cork: K O'Dwyer; S O'Brien, D Kavanagh, N O'Leary; E Sexton, M Cronin, G Murphy; D Hurley, G Canty; A Cronin, C O'Sullivan, C McCarthy; C Crowley, M Ó Cróinín, K O'Sullivan. Subs used: N Murphy and K McMahon for C O’Sullivan and A Cronin (both 48 mins), M McCarthy for N Murphy (51-54 mins), F Murray for K O’Sullivan (56 mins)
Referee: Brian White
Filed by Barry J Whyte