Mark Keane grabbed the headlines but Cork had the strength in depth to prevail

Mark Keane grabbed the headlines but Cork had the strength in depth to prevail

Ruairí Deane of Cork in action against Peter Crowley of Kerry. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

THE similarities between the dramatic events of last Sunday’s Munster semi-final and the equally sensational developments in the 1983 decider are uncanny.

The weather. The rain which bucketed down from the skies just before the throw-in and then during the second-half would, no doubt, have flooded the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch.

Referee Derek O’Mahoney from Tipperary would have been left with little choice to call a halt, but the new surface has shown again that it can absorb seemingly all levels of rain.

Go back 37 years and the weather was also a central talking point in the middle of July because of the flash floods in and around the city which impacted on a crowd of just 17,000 attending.

Kerry were not also the defending Munster champions on both occasions but they were on one of those extended reigns as provincial kingpins.

In ’83, the Kingdom were striving for a ninth consecutive title, having been dominant since 1975, and on Sunday they were bidding to keep their eight in-a-row on track.

That Kerry were undone by last-gasp goals at the city end of the ground in very similar circumstances just re-enforced the links between the two afternoons or in Sunday’s case, the early evening.

Kerry led by 3-9 to 2-10 in ’83 with time almost up, when Dinny Allen was fouled (no mention here that he picked the ball off the ground) and Tadhg O’Reilly ballooned the free into the danger zone.

Time seemed to stand still as the ball fell for Tadhg Murphy, who slotted in his second goal, low to the far corner of the net from the right of the square.

Sunday’s version was like watching a basketball game heading for the buzzer with Kerry 0-13 to 0-12 in front and Cork maintaining their patient and composed approach.

One minute of injury-time was announced at the end of the second period of extra-time and we watched the clock on the scoreboard behind the goal tick along far too quickly from Cork’s perspective.

Then debutant Sean Meehan made a decisive break before passing to another newcomer Damien Gore, who turned away from the target to feed Luke Connolly.

The ball was in the air heading towards the danger zone when the clock showed 21 minutes and it was now or never for Cork.

Kerry will spend the rest of the winter wondering how Mark Keane was able to catch it without a glove being placed on him before coolly slotting to the same far corner of the net as Murphy had done 37 years earlier.

Kevin Flahive celebrates with team-mate Mark Keane after victory over Kerry. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kevin Flahive celebrates with team-mate Mark Keane after victory over Kerry. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It was a remarkable climax to one of the cagiest games ever between the rivals with Cork winning the tactical battle on the sidelines.

One of the main aspects was that Cork had to try and stay with the Division 1 champions on the scoreboard for as long as possible.

They managed this brilliantly, Kerry establishing no more than a two-point advantage during the course of the 100-minute-plus energy-sapping joust and they did this on four occasions.

Cork led three times, always by the slenderest margin, before Kerry pegged them back.

What was even more praiseworthy about Cork’s victory, which now sets them up for a 38th title and their first since 2012, though Tipperary are unlikely to be overawed one bit on Sunday week, was the players who weren’t on the pitch at the time of Keane’s heroics.

If you were told Cork wouldn’t have their starting centre-back, two midfielders and centre-forward (Sean Powter, Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh and Killian O’Hanlon respectively) to influence matters then the prospects of a shock victory would have been remote.

It underlined the faith Ronan McCarthy and his management team have in the panel as a group because they summoned nine of their 11 substitutes.

Only sub keeper Anthony Casey and corner-back Sam Ryan weren’t called upon as Cork mixed experienced players like Connolly, Paul Kerrigan, Kevin O’Driscoll to championship rookies Keane, Gore and Paul Ring to telling effect.

Kerry’s stunning exit has strengthened Dublin’s case for six-in-row with Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Cork lining up behind them in what is sure to be an exciting run-in.

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