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5 talking points after dominant Kerry triumph in Munster U21 final against Cork

It was an impressive display by Jack O’Connor’s side in Páirc Uí Rinn.

Kerry players celebrate their victory in Páirc Uí Rinn.
Kerry players celebrate their victory in Páirc Uí Rinn.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

1. A victory to savour for Kerry

The EirGrid U21 football championship has been fruitless for Kerry teams over the past eight seasons. Their lack of a provincial title in that time frame has proved a deep disappointment for them, considering the county’s rich Gaelic football record. Kerry suffered some painful final results in that period with Cork largely the county that has administered those defeats.

But Jack O’Connor’s team ended that recent Munster losing streak in style tonight. Kerry will toast the fact that they got their hands on silverware again and managing to achieve that by ending a 20-year wait for an U21 victory against Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn, will sweeten the success.

2. Kerry’s early second-half surge is key

Given they only trailed by six points after an ineffectual first-half, this game was not totally beyond Cork at the break. But the pace and power of Kerry’s play straight after half-time killed off the match, and crucially they corrected their shooting to lethal effect.

In the third quarter alone Kerry notched seven points, a tally greater than the number of white flags they raised in the opening half. With a 1-13 to 0-4 advantage by the 45th minute, this game was a done deal and Kerry had the opportunity to empty their bench as the spoils were assured.

3. A tough night at home for Cork

The U21 level has been the best source of comfort for Cork football in recent seasons yet this was a long, hard night at the office. Despite operating on home soil, Cork never hit their stride with Kerry nullifying the impact of some of the key performers that steered Cork to the All-Ireland final last April.

Little went right for Cork. Kevin Flahive was a major loss before the game. Michael Hurley saw a stinging shot for goal cannon off the post after a blistering early run. Brian Coakley uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances for points from frees before the interval.

At midfield they were wiped out under kickouts and in attack could never prise Kerry apart. Coakley’s stylish point in the 14th minute was their solitary score from play, a glaring statistic that demonstrated how this was a night where Cork collided with a vastly superior team.

4. Kerry’s attack hit full speed

Over the course of the last three All-Ireland minor wins, it’s been clear that Kerry have some scoring forwards of real potential. Tonight was a test to see could they step up sufficiently to succeed in an U21 decider. They did that in style.

Last year’s minor captain Sean O’Shea weighed in with 0-6, a tally that just surpassed Killian Spillane’s contribution of 0-5. Substitute Conor Geaney looked dangerous in scoring 1-2 when he came on, while the giant frame of Matthew O’Sullivan offered Kerry a major focal point near goal and the St Michael’s-Foilmore man bagged 1-1. Kerry’s array of options up front was a key difference.

5. The All-Ireland prospects for Kerry

Afterwards Jack O’Connor spoke of enjoying this success but there’s no doubt that he’ll quickly shift his focus to the bigger challenges that await. After those three All-Ireland minor wins on the bounce, this Kerry team has naturally been tipped for U21 honours and the nature of tonight’s win will only swell the expectations surrounding them.

Galway or Sligo are up next at the semi-final stage, while elsewhere Dublin have looked particularly strong so far this season in Leinster. But Kerry clearly have a formidable side, as evidenced by their strength in depth. Tonight they welcomed Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Gavin White back from injury and Dr Crokes commitments respectively to bolster their rearguard.

While amongst the players they sprung from the bench were a pair of recent All-Ireland club winners in Micheál Burns and Jordan Kiely, the scoring talents of Geaney and a useful midfield option in Barry O’Sullivan. They’re major All-Ireland contenders now.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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