Monday, May 20, 2024

Kerry under-20s beat Cork again to retain Munster title and set up All-Ireland semi-final against Meath

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Kerry led by four at half time and Tomas Kennedy’s goal early in the second half was the platform for the champions to open up a 10-point lead

Kerry 1-15

Cork 0-12

A blistering start to the second half, embellished by Tomás Kennedy’s 32nd minute goal, rattled Cork to their very core, and propelled a dominant Kerry to a hugely-deserved Munster U-20 Final victory over the Rebels on a sunny May evening at Austin Stack Park.

In adding the finishing touches to a promising first half display by Tomás Ó Sé’s charges, the seven-minute blitzkrieg of scores immediately on the resumption was a dagger to the heart of a highly-rated opposition, as the Kingdom, stunningly, pushed themselves into a ten-point advantage, 1-12 to 0-5.

Kerins O’Rahillys’ fulcrum Kennedy, one of the promoted 2023 minors that the Kerry manager has invested so much faith in this season, finished clinically, left-footed, to the net, after being plied with a fine pass inside the Cork cover by Luke Crowley.

With man-of-the-match Charlie Keating making a magnificent catch from the resultant Rebels’ kick-out, setting in motion a crisply-taken Cormac Dillon point, the winners were rampant. Midfielder Eddie Healy, whose voracious appetite for hard graft was so admirable, almost sneaked in for a second goal.

Cork, at this juncture, had no answer. Top scorer Dillon tapped over a free after Crowley’s directness caused further headaches for the beleaguered away defence, with the ever-composed Gearoid Evans up from the back to curl over another Kerry white flag, basically ending the game after 37 minutes.

With the breeze to their backs in the opening half, Kerry made the more positive start to proceedings, despite conceding the game’s first point to Cork full-forward Ed Myers, who converted after a nice pass from the tricky Dara Sheedy.

Tomás Kennedy scores Kerry’s goal past Gearoid Daly of Cork during the Munster U-20 Football Championship Final

The Kingdom defence were quick to settle into their structure, however, Maidhcí Lynch shadowing Myers, Cian Lynch picking up Sheedy, and Dara O’Callaghan getting close to danger-man Hugh O’Connor. At the other end, David Buckley wasn’t letting Luke Crowley out of his sight.

Settling well, it was the hosts who notched five points without reply to take a four-point lead, 0-5 to 0-1, by the end of the first quarter. Stepping up to the plate in style, Daniel Kirby kicked two fine scores, Odhran Ferris and Aidan Crowley added two more, and Dillon lofted over a free.

With midfield pair Rory O’Shaughnessy and Michael McSweeney more involved in an attacking sense, Cork became more purposeful in their approach work. O’Connor and Sheedy notched two lovely points, either side of a splendid individual white flag by Keating, to leave the margin at three, 0-6 to 0-3.

Ever capable of creating goal chances, Cork were denied twice in the last ten minutes of the half by superb home defending. Firstly, Keating got back when Myers was rounding Cian Lynch and heading for goal, then Maidhcí Lynch made a magnificent diving block from the threatening O’Connor.

Despite two more minors for the Rebels, courtesy of Darragh O’Brien (free) and the towering O’Shaughnessy, Kerry kept their noses in front all the way to the half-time break, 0-9 to 0-5, with Dillon’s place kicking proving to be as accurate as usual, the Duagh man adding three points to his tally.

To be fair to Cork, when that four-point deficit became ten, Ray O’Mahony’s outfit didn’t throw in the towel, far from it, in fact. Four white flags on the trot – O’Connor (2) and substitutes Gearoid Kearney and Ross Corkery (a brilliant ‘45’) – had the margin back to six, 1-12 to 0-9, at the three-quarter mark.

Luke Crowley of Kerry celebrates with his parents Marie and father John, former Kerry footballer, after the Munster U-20 Football Championship Final

Kerry, visibly tiring slightly from the mammoth effort that they had put in all evening, went 14 minutes without a score before substitute Ryan Diggin steadied the ship with a vital point in the 51st minute, created by fellow replacement Cathal Brosnan, who made a significant impact.

By this juncture, the goal that Cork really needed to fully kick-start their revival had almost happened, but Michael Tansley tipped O’Connor’s left-footed drive away for the ’45 that Corkery successfully converted. Who knows what would have occurred in the closing stages if that had found the net?

Credit to the Kerry management, however, with Diggin and Brosnan both getting on the score-sheet before the finish, the Currow midfielder with what turned out to be the match-sealing point in the 58th minute, as the winners kept their composure impressively down the home straight.

The indefatigable Keating was here, there and everywhere, the herculean Healy had to go off near the finish after expending every last ounce of energy, and, right at the death, Brosnan made a terrific catch in his own danger zone as Cork pumped in a high delivery in search of a consolation goal.

Kerry now move on to face Leinster champions Meath in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday week. That will soon focus the attention of the management and players. For tonight, however, they are entitled to bask in this, somewhat, unexpected victory – a third provincial U-20 title in succession.

KERRY: Michael Tansley (Austin Stacks); Maidhcí Lynch (Dr Crokes), Dara O’Callaghan (Kilcummin), Gearoid Evans (Keel) 0-1; Charlie Keating (Dr Crokes) 0-1, Darragh O’Connor (Kenmare Shamrocks), Cian Lynch (Glenflesk); Rob Stack (Beale), Eddie Healy (Listowel Emmets); Daniel Kirby (Austin Stacks) 0-2, Odhran Ferris (Ardfert) 0-1, Tomás Kennedy (Kerins O’Rahillys) 1-0; Luke Crowley (Glenflesk) 0-1, Aidan Crowley (Templenoe) 0-1, Cormac Dillon (Duagh) 0-6 (4f, 1m). Subs: Ryan Diggin (Laune Rangers) 0-1 for O’Callaghan (inj, 39), Adam Segal (Ballyduff) for O’Connor (46), Cathal Brosnan (Currow) 0-1 for Ferris (49), Paddy Lane (Austin Stacks) for A Crowley (50), Evan Boyle (Ballyduff) for Healy (inj, 57).

CORK: Mikey O’Connell (St Michaels); Dan Twomey (Ballinascarthy), Colin Molloy (Nemo Rangers) 0-1, Mark Óg O’Sullivan (Bantry Blues); Gearoid Daly (Mallow), David Buckley (Douglas), Sam Copps (Mallow); Rory O’Shaughnessy (St Michaels) 0-1, Michael McSweeney (Knocknagree); Darragh O’Brien (Glanworth) 0-1(f), Hugh O’Connor (Newmarket) 0-3 (0-1f), Jack O’Neill (Castlehaven); Olan Corcoran (St Marys) 0-1, Ed Myers (Naomh Abán) 0-1, Dara Sheedy (Bantry Blues) 0-2. Subs: Gearoid Kearney (Kinsale) 0-1 for McSweeney (38), Ross Corkery (Nemo Rangers) 0-1 (’45’) for O’Brien (42), Shane O’Connell (Kilshannig) for Twomey (49), Micheál Maguire (Castlehaven) for O’Shaughnessy (56), Luke O’Herlihy (St Michaels) for Sheedy (inj, 62).

REFEREE: Niall Quinn (Clare)

The Kerry team celebrate with the Noel Walsh cup after winning the Munster U-20 Football Championship Final against Cork at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Photo by Sportsfile

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