Kerry beat Cork in Killarney in their last knockout Munster football showdown

Kerry beat Cork in Killarney in their last knockout Munster football showdown

Kieran Daly of Cork in action against Noel Kennelly of Kerry in the 2000 Munster semi-final in Killarney. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

FOR the first time in 20 years, Cork will meet Kerry with the chance to knock them out of the championship in the Munster series.

The setting couldn’t be more different from that sweltering June afternoon in 2000 in Killarney, with the terraces heaving and the tar melting on the road outside Fitzgerald Stadium. Larry Tompkins raged at referee Mick Curley’s decisions and the atmosphere crackled given the high-stakes involved as the drama unfolded.

This Sunday we’ll need the action on the pitch to warm up those of us on duty at the provincial semi-final. Still, it’s a rare chance for Cork to lay a killer blow on Kerry.

The winners will face either Limerick or Tipp in the Munster decider. The losers head back into cold storage, or at least until Covid restrictions ease and those whose clubs are still in Cork championship action can prepare for the delayed finals to take place in 2021.

Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Back in 2000, Cork were coming in having beaten Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1999, before reaching an All-Ireland final where the chance of a double was let slip against Meath. Tompkins had Steven O’Brien and Colin Corkery back on board and it was considered a 50-50 match beforehand.

The Kingdom were 2-15 to 1-13 victors, but only after a pair of clinical penalties from Dara Ó Cinneide. Cork were in huge trouble after half-time but inspired by Colin Corkery they roared back to within a score only for Kerry to hold firm.

Corkery, who had been off the panel from 1997 to ‘99, chipped in with 1-8 in the game, but as was so often the case for the Nemo powerhouse and his club comrade Joe Kavanagh in their years in Rebel red, that brilliance wasn’t rewarded with a victory.

Colin Corkery fires a point against Kerry in 2000. Picture: Damien Eagers/Sportsfile
Colin Corkery fires a point against Kerry in 2000. Picture: Damien Eagers/Sportsfile

Mike Frank Russell chipped in with 0-3 for a strong Kerry outfit, with Mike McCarthy, Seamus Moynihan, Tomás and Darragh Ó Sé, John Crowley, Tom O’Sullivan, Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Maurice Fitzgerald all involved. They’d be crowned All-Ireland champions the following September, though they needed replays to defeat Armagh and Galway.

It was an exciting campaign, undoubtedly given an edge because of the straight knockout format. The maths are simple for Kerry if they get the better of Cork this weekend, three more wins and Sam Maguire will be heading back south to really shorten this strange winter.

Current Cork manager Ronan McCarthy was in the full-back line in the 2000 Munster semi-final, along with Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Anthony Lynch. When Kerry were beaten in ‘99 he did an excellent man-marking job on Maurice Fitzgerald.

Dara Ó Cinneide wins the ball ahead of Seán Óg. Picture: INPHO/Tom Honan
Dara Ó Cinneide wins the ball ahead of Seán Óg. Picture: INPHO/Tom Honan

To have any chance of a major upset this weekend, Cork will have to tie down David Clifford. In the meeting last summer, three goals put Cork in with a real shout but Clifford hit 0-4, three from play, and was a massive threat every time the ball landed in his zone.

With an attack that also includes Seán O’Shea, who is both playmaker and score-taker, as well as lethal from frees, and Paul Geaney, it’s difficult to envisage a scenario where Cork hold Kerry to a beatable tally.

In the two delayed league games that Kerry won to secure the Division 1 title recently, they experimented with a more counter-attacking style. You can be sure that was with an eye to the All-Ireland semi-final and final, and not on Cork.

In 2019, Cork were primed to cause an upset as their stock had fallen due to relegation from Division 2 and a few massively underwhelming championship outings. However, reaching the Super 8s last summer and dominating Division 3 to gain promotion means their stock has risen again. 

It’s not that they’re contenders for Sam Maguire, certainly not with Kerry first up in a knockout format you might say, but enough for Peter Keane and his players to be on alert. The lack of complacency makes it impossible to come up with an argument for Cork to secure a victory on Sunday.

A well-structured, aggressive performance is a more realistic aim.

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