Cork outclassed by Kerry in McGrath finale but Ricken happy with overall performance from inexperienced rebels
McGRATH CUP FINAL
Cork’s return to Fitzgerald Stadium six months after their 22-point final victory at Munster SFC was always going to be about recovering ground. A McGrath Cup final in January is of little interest to Championship in the summer, but for a new manager and new players – as many as the old ones in Killarney last July – this early season final was the opportunity to straighten out some things.
It remains to be seen what manager Keith Ricken thinks of what could have been straightened out, but the new Cork boss was a philosopher after that 12-point defeat at Killarney. Ricken acknowledged that the two teams came from very different starting points, but there were enough details in Cork’s performance this afternoon to encourage him.
Yes, the game as an ongoing business disappeared from Cork at half-time. But the Rebels stayed within two points of a very strong Kerry team for the second period, kept a clean sheet in the goal column and fought to the end. A few things that Ricken will put in his file.
Two first-half goals handed Kerry his first McGrath Cup title in five years, and while the silverware was welcome – especially by newcomers to Jack O’Connor’s squad – the focus will already be on the Allianz League next. the week.
When it comes to this McGrath Cup final, Kerry will take the win, Cork will park the loss and the two will move one after much ado about nothing.
Kerry’s first goal came early and from a somewhat unlikely source – Tom O’Sullivan, the nominal cornerback who appears to have been given permission to move. Team-mate Paul Geaney slipped a pass over the Cork defense to O’Sullivan, who showed all the composure of an inside striker to slip the ball past Micheal Martin to put Kerry 1-1 up without scoring a goal. forward after four minutes.
Twenty-nine minutes later, Geaney turned poacher, collecting Micheal Burns’ pass in the mouth of the net, selling a few sidesteps to Cork cover before beating Martin for the second time to put Kerry 2-7-0 up. -5 in front.
At halftime, the home side were 2-9 down to 0-5, making the second half an exercise in both teams seeing what they could extract from the 35 seconds in an unusually crowded Fitzgerald Stadium for the time of year.
Everything O’Connor and Ricken will take away from what passed out after a very competitive 20-minute fist after a bad practice rotation is anyone’s guess. One imagines Kerry and Cork will learn more about themselves next weekend in Kildare and Roscommon respectively, but in itself this McGrath Cup final will have been instructive in the build-up to the League.
While the 2-17 scoreline speaks to Kerry’s wealth up front, the concession of just 0-9 speaks volumes about the extra focus it is assumed has been put into the backline action by O’ Connor and his head trainer Paddy Tally.
Kerry were well organized and structured here – as they were in previous rounds against Limerick and Tipperary – and that would seem like a prelude to the season ahead.
Brian Hurley – who tormented Kerry at the start of the Munster final last year – was very sharp again as an all-around striker for Cork and a good point from him, and one from wing-back Rory Maguire has brings Cork back into the contest at 1-5 at 0-4 after 22 minutes. However, the loss of Kevin O’Donovan to a black card put huge pressure on the visitors against a Kerry side – even with David Clifford on the bench – who were quickly finding the rhythm and the spark.
Cork had almost withstood that 10-minute period with 14 players when Geaney collected Micheal Burns’ pass in goal and the Dingle man, impressively sharp through this competition, beat Micheal Martin for the second time to give Kerry that 10-point halftime lead.
Thereafter it was damage limitation for Cork, and losing the second half 0-8 to 0-6 will be little consolation for the Rebels. At the second water break, Kerry had a 2-15 lead against 0-9, with David Clifford on the court and scoring two points.
Cork stuck to their task – something that pleased Ricken – and they carved out late scores from Mark Cronin, Hurley and Daniel Dineen, but it was Kerry’s day.
Next weekend the serious business begins: Ricken takes Cork to play against a Roscommon side much more familiar with top-flight football in recent years. O’Connor returns to Newbridge next week confident he already has a solid structure and a solid base in place.
There was something in the area of around 6,500 people at Fitzgerald Stadium this afternoon, people just happy to be able to operate with a bit more freedom as pandemic restrictions were eased overnight .
You could argue that Kerry’s side also got a little too much freedom from Cork, with the Rebels not quite in lockdown mode either.
CORKMíchéal Martin (Nemo Rangers), Sean Powter (Douglas), Kieran Histon (Nemo Rangers), Tadhg Corkery (Cill na Martra), Rory Maguire 0-2 (Castlehaven), John Cooper (Eire Óg), Matthew Taylor (Mallow) , Cian Kiely (Ballincollig), Joe Grimes (Clonakilty), Kevin O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), Blake Murphy (St. Vincent’s), Colm O’Callaghan (Eire Óg), Mark Cronin 0-3 (1f) (Nemo Rangers ), Brian Hurley 0-5 (2f) (Castlehaven), Chris Óg Jones (Iveleary).
submarines: Damien Gore (Kilmacabea) for B Murphy (33), Luke Connolly (Nemo Rangers) for D Gore (inj, ht), David Buckley (Newcestown) for K O’Donovan (ht), Daniel O’Connell (Kanturk) for C Kiely (46), Daniel Dineen 0-1 (Cill na Martra) for C Jones (46), Shane Merrit (Mallow) for J Grimes (52), Kevin Crowley (Millstreet) for J Cooper (54), Paudie Allen (Newmarket) for T Corkery (56), Paul Ring (Aghabullogue) for S Powter (62).
KERRY: Shane Murphy (Dr Crokes), Dan O’Donoghue (Spa), Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue), Tom O’Sullivan 1-0 (Dingle), Paul Murphy (Rathmore), Tadhg Morley (Templenoe), Gavin White (Dr Crokes ), Seán O’Shea 0-2 (f) (Kenmare Shamrocks), Adrian Spillane (Templenoe), Micheál Burns (Dr Crokes), Paudie Clifford 0-2 (Fossa), Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks), Tony Brosnan 0-3 (g) (Dr Crokes), Paul Geaney 1-4 (0-1g) (Dingle), Killian Spillane 0-2 (Templenoe)
submarines: Jack Savage 0-2 (Kerins O’Rahillys) for S O’Brien (inj, 6), Gavin Crowley (Templenoe) for P Murphy (ht), Brian Ó Beaglaioch (An Ghaeltacht) for D O’Donoghue (ht) , Greg Horan (Austin Stacks) for A Spillane (46), David Clifford 0-2 (Fossa) for T Brosnan (46), Graham O’Sullivan (Piarsaigh na Dromoda) for G White, Dylan Casey (Austin Stacks) for G Crowley (inj, 55), Paul O’Shea (Kilcummin) for P Clifford (55), Darragh Roche (Glenflesk) for K Spillane (62), Cian Gammell (Killarney Legion) for T O’Sullivan (62)
Arbitrator: Niall Quinn (Clare)