The Sam Maguire Cup is on its way back to the Kingdom after Kerry won their 36th All-Ireland Senior Football title with a four point win over Munster rivals in front of 82,286 spectators at Croke Park.
The Kingdom led by 0-11 to 1-06 at the break, and while they were under pressure for much of the second half, a solid defensive performance and some superb scores from Tommy Walsh secured their fifth title this decade.
Jack O’Connor’s decision to return to the management hot-seat was vindicated in glorious fashion, although the Rebels did contribute to their own downfall with some poor shooting, particularly in the second half, when they failed to make a period of dominance count.
Kerry had many outstanding performers on the day, including Tommy Griffin, after a shaky start, and Tom O’Sullivan in defence, Paul Galvin, who, as usual, was everywhere, and Tommy Walsh, Tadhg Kennelly and Declan O’Sullivan up front.
Cork had Kerry on the rack for the opening 10 minutes, sprinting into a 1-03 to 0-01 lead, but thereafter it was the class of the Kingdom that illuminated Croke Park as O’Connor’s men roasted their opponents from there to the interval.
O’Neill drifted wide of Griffin to blast in a memorable goal in the tenth minute, and points from Donnacha O’Connor, Paddy Kelly and O’Neill had the Rebels roaring in the stands.
But Kerry exerted a stranglehold around midfield through Darragh Ó Sé and Seamus Scanlon, with Galvin picking up an immense amount of breaking ball.
Tomás and Marc Ó Sé raided regularly down the right wing, and the in-form Declan O’Sullivan was at he centre of all Kerry’s best moves.
Kennelly, who succeeded in curbing Graham Canty’s attacking surges, fired over a couple of points, and Colm Cooper converted five frees, many of which he won himself off Anthony Lynch, who was on a yellow card by half-time.
Target man Tommy Walsh represented another dimension to Kerry’s varied attacking strategy, and floated over a couple of points as Cork’s early promise continued to disintegrate.
Nevertheless, Cork trailed by just two points at the interval, after Daniel Goulding ended their scoring famine with a couple of late points.
Kerry led by 0-11 to 1-06 at the halfway stage, and managed to hold on to the advantage in the face of a Cork flourish in the early stages of the second half, when the Rebels were badly let down by poor shooting.
And Goulding was denied by goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy when he cut inside to unleash an angled shot at goal.
It took them 15 minutes to get their first score of the second half, an O’Connor free, but by that time, Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan had stretched Kerry’s lead.
Alan O’Connor and Nicholas Murphy were now giving Cork a significant presence in midfield, and two Goulding scores narrowed the gap to a single point.
Inevitably, Kerry sensed the danger, and the response was emphatic. Tommy Walsh strode the stage with authority, and lofted a couple of superb points, before Cooper showed his creative side to send wing back Tomás Ó Sé in for his second of the afternoon.
And at the back, Griffin, Marc Ó Sé and Tom O’Sullivan were rock solid and totally dependable, and a glowing confidence oozed through the entire team.
As Cork desperately battled to get themselves back into the game, they were confronted with a swarm defence, and the sight of Mike McCarthy and Tomás Ó Sé emerging with the ball after possession had been overturned was the prelude to another triumphant climax for the Kingdom of Kerry and its people.
Kerry: D Murphy, M Ó Sé, T Griffin, T O'Sullivan, T Ó Sé (0-02), M McCarthy, K Young, D Ó Sé, S Scanlon, P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan (0-01), T Kennelly (0-02), C Cooper (0-06, 6f), T Walsh (0-04), Darran O'Sullivan (0-01).
Substitutes: D Walsh for Kennelly (51), M Quirke for D Ó Sé (56), K Donaghy for Darran O’Sullivan (56), D Moran for T Walsh (67), A O’Mahony for Young (69).
Cork: A Quirke, K O’Connor, M Shields, A Lynch, J Miskella, G Canty, N O'Leary, A O'Connor, N Murphy, P Kelly (0-01), P O'Neill, P Kerrigan, D Goulding (0-04, 2f), C O'Neill (1-01), D O'Connor (0-03, 3f).
Substitutes: E Cadogan for K O’Connor (h-t), F Goold for Kerrigan (49), D Kavanagh for Lynch (57), J Masters for Goulding (62), M Cussen for A O’Connor (65)
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).