Another U-21 football match, another win…but this one is just a little bit special. I’m sure Kerry have been beaten by more in the past, but never in a Munster Final against their closest rivals. In truth this was a complete a performance and victory as the scoreline suggests, and arguably Cork could have won by more as we spurned a number of goal chances. From beginning to end the speed, movement and clinical nature of Cork’s play simply blew Kerry away and although our physical size in comparison to the Kerry players played a big part in the victory, the shooting and distribution skills of the Cork players were also far superior to our rivals. This was very much a complete performance, showing power and skill in even amounts, playing the modern game as it is supposed to be played.
Suffice to say, pretty much no one played badly for Cork although more then a few deserve special mention. Peter Daly was the pick of the defenders, extremely strong and safe in possession and excellent at winning breaking ball from kick-outs, Jamie Wall went forward well and pointed twice while Damien Cahalane and Liam Jennings both put in more assured performances then they did against Tipp. At the same time the back six as a unit worked better as a whole, the half-back line never forgetting to track back, close down space and support their full-back line (a problem at times against Tipp) while Kerry’s decision to play a two man full-forward backfired, their attack lacking a target man while the spare man Alan Cronin winning a lot of spare ball in the first half.
But it was from midfield on that Cork really sparkled. Walsh dominated as usual while Micheal O’Leary put in another impressive performance, grabbing a point and showing some good fielding and support play during the night. In the half-forward line Sheehan was magnificent – again and again the Kerry players failed to deal with his power and aggression while his point taking was brilliant; Mark Collins and Paul Honohan put in decent shifts, working hard and offering substantial scoring threats; Barry O’Driscoll and Donal Og Hodnett was close to MOTM, both terrorising the Kerry offence all night with their movement and strength in possession.
Regarding Kerry, the management’s decision to start Daithi Casey out midfield and leave a two man full-forward line backfired greatly. Casey failed completely to win any ball in the first half and the Kerry kick-outs failed to pick out spare men, many inexplicably being kicked down the throat of Aidan Walsh and being mopped up by Daly, Clancy and co. Nor did they attempt to kick some short so they could play the ball up the pitch patiently and take a little pressure off their failing midfield. Moreover the extra crowding of midfield only helped the heavier more poweful Cork players. In general one has to wonder if Kerry even have their players on weights and fitness programmes, such was the discrepancy in size between both sides.
Onwards for Cork as we now play Galway on Saturday week. If we get over that hurdle then in all likelihood Tyrone will be in the All-Ireland final – a team built just as strongly and powerfully as Cork.