WE got great entertainment on Saturday night but unfortunately no trophies.
The senior final was similar to the preceding minor contest in that it had a bit of everything from the sublime scores to sloppy turnovers, courageous defending to defences been split wide open.
The one thing in your control at all times is effort. Cork’s honesty of effort in the second half is what gave them the platform to push Kerry all the way. There is no time to be lazy or switch off.
A team is at its most vulnerable if even one player isn’t tuned in and doesn’t do their defensive job. This left Cork exposed on occasions in the first half and they were punished for it. That’s what the good teams do.
In advance of the game, you feared for Cork if Kerry got a good start, which was what they certainly got clocking up 1-5 in the first quarter. Quick short-kicks from Shame Ryan plus forcing early turnovers from Cork made it easier for Kerry to get the upper hand.
Seán White was dropping deep from centre forward when Cork were defending. He was getting on a lot of possession, which suits is football ability but defensively as a unit, Cork were still open at the back at times.
There was a variety to Kerry’s attack, long balls to Clifford, shorter passes to Sean O’Shea to take on his man plus the direct running from Tom O'Sullivan at wing-back, who looked really good.
If Kerry had converted their second goal chance on 15 minutes after Clifford flicked over Flahive then it could have left Cork with a mountain to climb.
Even though Cork were conceding too many scores early on, Kerry appeared just as vulnerable at the other end. Cork had enough possession, which was key.
Kerry became sloppy in possession into the second quarter and consequently, Cork’s counterattack began to open up Kerry’s rearguard all too easily. Cork had two great goal chances through Ruairí Deane and Mark Collins while on other occasions Kerry resorted to fouling.
When playing a running game there is a fine line between running into contact and actually asking serious questions of the defender. Likewise, you can’t always be touch-tight as a defender but if you give the attacking players an extra yard it is an invitation to be attacked.
It was intriguing to see this play out for both teams.
What probably saved Cork early on was their kick-out was strong which was mainly through short to medium length options. Only one kick out was lost in the first half and that was when Cork went long.
The only issue here is short options can take more energy out of the backs as they have to carry more ball. Turn over possession from here and then your defence can be exposed due to fatigue and disorganisation. This was an area in fact that exposed Kerry in the second half.
You could be critical of Cork and say they could have defended Kerry’s short kick-out better particularly in the second half when the Kerry backs bunched together. An increased collective work rate though delayed Kerry’s attack and Cork were able to force some great turnovers. Kerry didn’t have time to get direct ball into their dangerous inside line.
Its amazing once you force a few turnovers it can lead to more as the team in possessions feels the pressure, makes poor decisions and takes the ball into contact.
Kerry were struggling to create but then poor discipline gifted a few scores to Kerry. There was free brought forward for backchat to the referee plus a foul off the ball resulted in another easy free. This will frustrate Cork when they review the game.
The Luke Connolly penalty at start of the second half came at a crucial time.
For a period Cork were certainly the better team. There was a confidence and swagger about their play as they worked the ball through the hands. Patience and composure were shown as Mark Collins and Sean White scored two excellent points.
Unfortunately though as the half wore on this composure in front of goal drifted from their play and left Kerry off the hook.
The winning of the game was the success Kerry got from their long kick-out. It was nothing fancy just the ball broke Kerry’s way. This left space in the Cork defence and Kerry’s best forwards on the day Stephen O’Brien and David Clifford converted again.
This was further aided by Michael Burns impact when introduced at wing-forward plus you would feel Kerry were awarded some questionable frees towards the end.
Looking ahead you feel Cork have plenty they can still improve on which is a good thing. To get to the Super 8s would be massive for the development of this team as it guarantees three more competitive games and who knows from there.
There were many positives but improvement will have to come if they meet another topside.
The challenge now is Cork must bring the same attitude to their next qualifier game irrespective of the opposition. We have seen already in the championship this year that if this work-rate is down then you must certainly will be beaten.
Kerry meanwhile will be delighted with another Munster title and Peter Keane will be happy that his team got a serious examination. Kerry though still have serious question marks regards their defence.
Much to look forward over the next few weeks as the championship hots up.