Cork's defeat of Kerry sent shockwaves through the championship on Sunday evening, and Rebels boss Ronan McCarthy believes that county's relegation from Division 2 of the league last season acted as a catalyst for seismic change in the county's football culture.

Kerry were undone by Mark Keane's goal at the end of extra-time as the hosts prevailed by 1-12 to 0-13 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. 

Cork have earned promotion to the second tier of the league next season, but McCarthy suggested that the soul searching and response to relegation to Division 3 in 2019 proved key in restoring the team's fortunes. 

"They're a marvellous bunch of players," the jubilant manager told RTÉ Sport after the semi-final success. 

"Last year, when we were relegated from Division 2 after beating Armagh, what was interesting about them was that they never looked at anybody else, they looked at themselves. 

"They didn't blame anybody or point the finger. It was a fierce low point for us, but it was a new starting point and we built from there."

The pundits may not have given Cork a chance, but McCarthy never regarded his side as big underdogs, taking encouragement from their performances in last year's Super 8s. 

"I don't think it's as much of a shock when people look at it," he said.

"We served notice last year against Kerry that we were at that level and we performed really well against Dublin and Tyrone in both matches. 

"We felt we were in a better place than even last year, stronger panel, and it all came together and we got what we deserved in the end." 

Cork got their tactics just right on the day, failing to fall into the Kingdom's counter-attacking trap. 

"Kerry, looking at their matches in the league, particularly their last two matches, they were putting a lot of people behind the ball," McCarthy said

"They're inviting you in to strip you of the ball in the centre of the field. 

"The message was drilled into them not to take the ball into contact and the fellas implemented the gameplan."

Goalscorer Keane only returned to Ireland after his Collingwood side wrapped up their Aussie Rules season six weeks ago, but the Cork boss had no concerns over his inclusion.

"The minute he came back he wanted to come in and he's really added to us, and today is the icing on the cake," he enthused.

"I think the group have a huge commitment to Cork football. 

"I don't think that was always there over the last four or five years, and I think that's been part of the landscape change for this group, that everybody who is out there has Cork football as the number one priority."