Kerry and Cork players battle for possession. Donall Farmer/INPHO
Southern Showdown

5 talking points after Cork and Kerry's pulsating Munster final draw

They’ll be heading back for a replay on 18 July.

1. All square in Killarney again and it’s an unlikely saviour for Kerry

The sight of Cork and Kerry teams trooping off the Fitzgerald Stadium pitch deadlocked isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve seen it at the Munster semi-final stage in 2002, 2009 and 2010 along with the 2006 Munster decider.

A replay was the post-match order again this afternoon after a pulsating encounter that delivered five goals and sparked plenty debate.

But the saviour for Kerry against Cork was an unlikely figure. In 2009 it was Bryan Sheehan that bailed them out and in 2010 it was Colm Cooper that rescued the Kingdom.

Today Fionn Fitzgerald took on the responsibility at the death to loft over the most significant point in his time as a Kerry footballer. For Kerry it provided sweet relief, but for Cork it was a galling score to concede.

They were fingertips away from the finish line and halting the county’s two decade wait for a win at this stadium. Instead they must return in 13 days time and try again.

2. That contentious second-half penalty

The body language of the Cork players created no mystery as to how they felt when Padraig Hughes awarded the 53rd minute penalty. They were furious with the judgement that Mark Collins had brought down James O’Donoghue.

The subsequent emphatic despatch to the net by O’Donoghue poured salt on Cork’s wounds as it provided Kerry with a route back into contention.

Cork had trailed by four points at the interval before roaring into the action in the second-half and outscoring Kerry by 1-6 to 0-1 before O’Donoghue netted.

The penalty was a game changer in handing Kerry a lifeline at a juncture where Cork were buoyant and in control.

Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

3. Kerry are pushed to the brink and likely to benefit

In the post-match statements, Éamonn Fitzmaurice cut the more relieved figure. Much like last year’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final, this was a game where Kerry received a serious gut check and dug out a result in the dying embers.

A Dr Crokes man (Kieran O’Leary) rescued them last August and it was his clubmate (Fionn Fitzgerald) who popped up today. Fitzmaurice will be thankful for his intervention after an unsettling second-half.

Kerry had started slowly before Kieran Donaghy was gift-wrapped a goal and they stitched together fine passages of play before the interval as Bryan Sheehan and James O’Donoghue pointed the way.

Yet there was no stroll to victory thereafter as Cork dictated the second-half trends of play. Kerry were pushed to the limit and their Munster three-in-a-row bid looked precarious.

Three weeks ago Kerry didn’t get a stern provincial test to the finish against Tipperary but today they certainly did. It’s the type of examination that could well stand to them.

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

4. Cork show defiance and thrive after shaking up their team

Cork’s starting side had undergone major reconstruction since last July’s Munster final with just eight survivors. Their team changes worked as Cork looked far more assured and resilient.

Stephen Cronin settled well in defence, Alan O’Connor provided heft at midfield and Kevin O’Driscoll played with drive and purpose.

Barry O’Driscoll was whipped off at half-time in Páirc Uí Chaoimh twelve months ago. Today he was a revelation with his probing runs knifing through the Kerry defence to yield a personal tally of 1-1 and he also played in Donncha O’Connor for Cork’s second goal.

In addition Cork weathered setbacks throughout the game and showed a defiance that been lacking on three high-profile occasions over the past two seasons.

The concession of the Donaghy goal didn’t floor them, they came from four points down at the interval to lead after a rocky spell of play and even the O’Donoghue penalty didn’t quell their drive for the finish line.

They’ll depart this evening with regrets at not sealing the deal but this was their best championship performance of the Brian Cuthbert era. That’s a positive step.

Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. The provincial championships get an injection of excitement

The Big Four – Kerry, Mayo, Donegal and Dublin – have all travelled smoothly through their respective provinces this summer to be on course for retaining their titles.

But today was the closest we came to an upset as Cork (5/2 outsiders beforehand) came close to shunting the All-Ireland champions onto the backdoor track.

Five goals, eight yellow cards, three black cards and 27 points gave the 35,651 spectators plenty to digest.

A week after the free wheeling madness of Meath-Westmeath, this was another football game to savour but probably shaded last Sunday’s encounter in positioning two well-matched teams from the outset.

Cork brought the fight to Kerry and hounded the Kingdom. It resulted in a game that was rich in entertainment and creates a replay that will be eagerly-awaited.

The date and venue for the Munster football championship final replay has been confirmed

Cork and Kerry finish level after five-goal Munster football final thriller

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