THE field of chasers after Cork’s All-Ireland minor football crown is now at nine after Kerry retained their Munster title following the 2-14 to 1-7 victory over Clare.
It was the Kingdom’s 50th provincial title in the grade and a remarkable eighth successive title, enough to make you choke on the spiced beef tomorrow.
The Banner were seeking only a fourth title and their first since 1953 and while they competed well for most of the first half, Kerry dominated on the resumption.
Two players who figured prominently in the extra-time semi-final win over Cork stood out once again, particularly midfielder Cillian Burke, who linked well with captain Oisin Maunsell.
Burke scored 0-3 from play to add to first-half goals from Keith Evans and Cian McMahon, who kicked 0-8 against Cork, the majority from frees.
The critical period came just before the break when Kerry claimed a quick-fire 1-2 to lead by 2-5 to 0-5 at the interval and there was only one team in it in the second half.
Darragh O’Sullivan, who was another to make a big impression off the bench in the semi-final, chipped in with a couple of points.
Kerry became the first provincial champion in the grade in 2020 and now await the outcome in Connacht in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Unusually neither of the big two, Galway nor Mayo, reached the final, where there’s an unlikely pairing of Roscommon and Sligo who’ll go into battle on Saturday.
Roscommon overcame Galway in one semi-final, winning by 2-13 to 0-11 while Sligo had two points to spare from Mayo, 1-9 to 1-7.
Roscommon have 13 titles to their name, the most recent coming in 2012, while Sligo have just two, the last arriving in 1968.
The final will be played at the new Connacht Centre of Excellence in Co Mayo.
Munster chiefs wrapped up their season with the U20 hurling Cork-Tipperary final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh last night, the only province to complete their schedule this side of Christmas.
Three Leinster finals have been pencilled in for the first weekend of the New Year on January 2-3.
The main game will be the Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U20 hurling final with Galway facing Dublin on Sunday, January 3 in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise at 4pm.
In the semi-finals, Galway overcome Kilkenny by 0-19 to 1-11 and Dublin defeated Wexford by 1-19 to 1-10
Both minor finals will also be held that weekend. The hurling decider between Kilkenny and Offaly is on January 2 with Kilkenny playing Offaly in Portlaoise.
Kilkenny defeat Wexford by 0-23 to 1-14 in their semi-final while Offaly overcame Westmeath by 2-18 to 1-8.
The football final is on the Sunday with Meath playing Offaly in Parnell Park at 2pm.
Meath defeated Laois by 2-10 to 1-7 in their semi-final while Offaly denied Kildare by 2-10 to 2-7.
Meath, who are favourites to lift their 12th title, are seeking their first since 2018 while Offaly have to go back to 1989 for their sixth and most recent triumph.
The Leinster champions meet the winners in Ulster, where they are only at the semi-final stage.
Monaghan, the defending champions seeking three-in-a-row, take on Fermanagh with Tyrone meeting Derry in the other.
Finally, a big shout out to all who helped make the season possible despite the odds.
Back in late spring having any championship matches at all, never mind All-Ireland semi-finals and finals, appeared remote.
The sentiments expressed by the Club Players Association caught the mood perfectly when they said.
“We are proud of the contribution that the GAA and the other Gaelic games have made in bringing hope to parishes, villages, and communities in dark and difficult days.”
However, the return to Level 5 lockdown only serves to highlight once again the enormity of the challenges confronting everyone across society, never mind GAA affairs or sport in general.
“There is still great concern and uncertainty around the pandemic, and we are nowhere near what we would consider ‘normal’ condition for training and matches.
“The health and well being of players and their families absolutely has to be the primary driver in all deliberations.”