Cork came within seconds of overturning Kerry
Cork came into the Munster Final under the radar. Much of the talk before the game was of the strength of Kerry’s squad and the number of All Ireland medals on the bench. However Cork proved they were more than a match for Kerry in the second half.
The Kingdom’s defence had been exposed time and again during the national league. For a number of years now, Kerry look extremely vulnerable when teams run at them. Yet, for much of the first half, Cork sat back and employed a blanket, allowing Kerry dictate the play. However the value and organisation of such a defensive strategy must be brought into question, as Cork had conceded 1-9 by the break.
With the wind behind the Rebels in the first half, it was equally surprising that Cork did not take the game to Kerry. Instead they were often laborious in possession, and when they did kick it into their dangerous inside forwards, they were left without support, allowing Kerry easily turnover the ball. In fact the manner in which Cork approached the first half made it easy for Marc O’Sé to dominate Colm O’Neill.
The slow passing style employed by Cork contributed to the concession of Kerry’s goal. Although Michael Shields was caught in possession, the pass should never have been played to him. From that point on Kerry would dominate the remainder of the first half.
In the second half Cork changed tact, they pushed up on Brendan Kealy’s kick outs, dominated midfield and ran at Kerry. Cork’s second goal epitomised how Cork should have approached the game. Donncha O’Connor excellent support line, exposed how vulnerable Kerry are when the ball carrier breaks the initial defensive line. There was simply no pressure on O’Connor as he flicked the ball over Kealy’s head. Cork’s third via the same method. Colm O’Neill ran at Kerry, broke the first line of defence and popped a simple ball into Barry O’Driscoll, who once more had plenty of time and space to beat Kealy.
The only way Kerry were able to stop Cork was illegally, as the Rebels running game forced a number of fouls. David Moran’s black card and Kieran Donaghy’s yellow came as a result of Eoin Cadogan running at the Kerry duo.
Despite all of their pressure, Cork were unable to brush off Kerry. Although the Kingdom were helped by a dubious penalty decision, their ability to convert whatever chances did come their way was impressive. With their defence under pressure, crucial scores came from Bryan Sheehan and Paul Geaney. The movement of Colm Cooper to loose his marker and the ball supplied from Marc O’Sé, proved how costly it was for Cork not to take the game to Kerry from the off.
Cork’s inability to kill off Kerry could cost them as Eamonn Fitzmaurice will most likely abandon the man on man defensive strategy Kerry employed, and clog up the middle of the field with defenders. In doing so Kerry will deny Cork the oxygen to fuel their running game. Indeed with Pairc Ui Chaoimh being rebuilt, Cork will have to travel back to Killarney to beat their rivals.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena