Kerry will play Tyrone or Monaghan in next month's All-Ireland semi-final after the Kingdom avenged their 2020 Munster Championship loss to Cork with a statement 22-point win over their arch-enemy in Killarney this afternoon.
Three second-half goals in a nine-minute period in the third quarter quashed any lingering hope of a Cork uprising, with perhaps the big talking point being that David Clifford failed to trouble the scoreboard bar one late free.
There is no doubt that the ghost of Mark Keane’s extra-time goal into Pairc Ui Chaoimh’s city end has haunted Kerry since last November, and the Kingdom emptied their hurt-locker in a swelteringly hot Fitzgerald Stadium today to torch Cork and ease into the penultimate stage of the All-Ireland Championship.
If Kerry’s five-point half time lead pointed to a home town win, it was all over by the second water break when they led by 4-15 to 1-07, and were on their way to the county’s biggest championship winning margin over Cork ever.
The pre-match consensus was that if Cork were to give themselves a chance of victory at a venue where they haven't won a championship game since 1995 they would have to throw the hammer after the hatchet at Kerry from the very start. And they did just that. The pre-throw-in scuffles around the field suggested Cork were hurting too from last year, and within six minutes Michael Hurley (2) and Daniel Dineen had the visitors three points ahead.
Brian Ó Beaglaoich score a goal after @Kerry_Official work the ball the length of the field to take the lead over @OfficialCorkGAA.— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) July 25, 2021
Watch the second half live on @RTE2 or highlights on #sundaygame on the same channel from 9.30pm. pic.twitter.com/SAIn0hsaGm
Cork were bringing a controlled madness to the match, running hard at Kerry and finding pockets of space against a stand-offish defence, though at the other end goalkeeper Micheal Martin was busy making smart saves from Sean O’Shea and then David Clifford.
Kerry were uncharacteristically sloppy in their handling, not helped by some excellent Cork defending, and when Kerry captain Paul Murphy was dispossessed near the Cork goal, the Rebels counter-attacked brilliantly with Ian Maguire setting up Brian Hurley for a brilliant goal finish past Shane Ryan.
Ahead 1-05 to 0-04 at the water break, a stoppage was the last thing Cork needed, but the sos uisce gave Kerry time to gather themselves, and though Brian Hurley kicked Cork into a five-point lead when the game resumed, Kerry found their rhythm and groove and kicked the next six points.
David Moran, Paudie Clifford, Tom O’Sullivan, Jack Barry and two from Sean O’Shea hauled Kerry into a 0-10 to 1-06 lead, before Luke Connolly kicked Cork’s first score in 12 minutes as the Rebels lack of any discernible kick-out strategy hurt them badly.
What further damage Cork didn’t self-inflict in that second quarter Kerry corner-back Brian O Beaglaoich did - the defender carrying the ball some 50 metres before sliding the ball past Martin. By half time it was 1-12 to 1-07 to Kerry, and the Cork challenge was already starting to wilt under the sun.
RESULT: Kerry 4-22 Cork 1-09— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) July 25, 2021
The second half of the Munster SFC final saw @Kerry_Official ruthlessly capitalise on @OfficialCorkGAA's capitulation. This was one of three goals the Kingdom scored after the break. pic.twitter.com/qb8l94l3pt
The second half was four minutes old when Paul Geaney goaled from O’Shea’s pass, and seven minutes later O’Shea turned poacher from Paudie Clifford’s selfless assist to make it 3-14 to 1-07.
Nine minutes after Geaney’s first green flag, the Dingle man found the net again, poking the ball over the line after Tom O’Sullivan had miscued his effort.
It all amounted to Kerry outscoring Cork 4-11 to 0-02 between the water breaks, rendering the fourth quarter little more than an accounting exercise.
Kerry got four points from play off their bench, with 13 players raising a flag. Incredibly, David Clifford managed just a solitary point, from a free, as Cork collapsed to their biggest ever championship defeat to Kerry, Ruairi Deane's 74th minute red card merely compounding a miserable day.
So, it's Munster title number 82 for Kerry, with an All-Ireland semi-final in three weeks to prepare for against Tyrone or Monaghan.
Kerry: Shane Ryan, Brian Ó Beaglaoich (1-00), Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan (0-02), Paul Murphy, Mike Breen (0-01), Gavin White, David Moran (0-01), Diarmuid O’Connor, Stephen O’Brien (0-01), Sean O’Shea (1-06, 3fs), Jack Barry (0-02), David Clifford (0-01,1f), Paul Geaney (2-01), Paudie Clifford (0-03).
Subs: Killian Spillane (0-02) for D O’Connor (inj, 18), Tommy Walsh (0-01) for O’Brien (blood, 45), Graham O’Sullivan for O Beaglaoich (blood, 53), Adrian Spillane for J Barry (56), S O’Brien for T Walsh (blood reverse, 57), T Walsh for P Geaney (57), O Beaglaoich for G O’Sullivan (blood reverse, 59), Gavin Crowley for T O’Sullivan (64), Tadhg Morley (0-01) for G White (66).
Cork: Micheal Martin, Kevin O’Donovan, Sean Meehan, Kevin Flahive, Cian Kelly, Sean Powter, Mattie Taylor, Ian Maguire (0-01), Brian Hartnett (0-01), John O’Rourke, Ruairi Deane, Michael Hurley (0-02), Luke Connolly (0-01), Brian Hurley (1-03, 1f), Daniel Dineen (0-01, 1m).
Subs: Mark White for M Martin (ht), Mark Collins for L Connolly (41), Colm O’Callaghan for D Dineen (43), Kevin O’Driscoll for M Hurley (47), Kevin Crowley for O’Donovan (50).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).