Kerry burst into a big first half lead but were made to sweat it out in a nail biting finish as Cork stormed back into this senior football contest.
Eight points ahead after 22 minutes, they were sailing. It started to unravel, however, before the break when Cork grabbed 1-1. It continued with the Rebels getting five of the first six scores in the second half.
A late goal from Darren Moore finally made it safe again, and Kerry withstood late points by Cork for the win.
Kerry had a perfect opening to the game, granted a slow paced one. They had the first five scores of the game in the opening 22 minutes.
Kevin Walsh fired in the first three while Ambrose O’Donovan had a glorious point from a sideline kick. They were winning all the breaks and making good use of it going forward.
Moore also had a goal chance when he jinxed his way to the 14 yard line and blasted to what was an empty net for a moment.
Paddy Harrington came storming across and made a saving kick block of the goal line.
Kerry did get a three pointer with seven minutes left. Vinnie Gavin started the move on the centerfield line when he launched a pass into Moore.
The nifty forward slipped a pass to Mike Jim Fitzgerald, who was storming down the center. He rifled the ball to the net for a brilliant goal.
Cork looked as if they would not hit the board at all in the opening 30 when Jason Kelly hit the upright, but in the last five minutes they did change that. Sean Purcell had a free for a point, and then a little generosity by the Kerry defense helped when Rory Stafford fought forward and Kelly finished the move to the net.
It made the game a hell of a lot closer, 1-5 to 1-1.
Cork continued their comeback with dominance in the second half that showed up on the scoreboard if not on the field. Three points in the first 12 minutes pulled them within one.
They then created a goal chance when Kelly fed the ball into Purcell. The corner forward pulled the ball down when he might have been better to punch it to the net.
As it was he gave Shane Clifford a chance to come to him and stop his shot at goal. Kerry did have a Dermie Foley blasted point, but that was cancelled out by an excellent Gary Lowney score when he was at the end of a three man move that originated with John McLoughlin.
A Kelly point with six minutes left had the sides all square and a thrilling finish set up. Kerry got their second goal of the game and a clincher when Alan Lyne, Fitzgerald and Walsh were involved, and Moore shot to the net for a 2-6 to 1-6 lead.
Rory Stafford did fire over two late points, but Cork needed more and time ran out on the side.
Kerry will be very happy with the performances of Paul McGill, Anthony Glacken and Alan Lyne in the back line. Ambrose O’Donovan and Mike Jim Fitzgerald started brightly but had their hands full as the game went on.
Kevin Walsh, who impressed in the first half, Vinnie Gavin, who was a third midfielder at times, and Darren Moore, who despite a low scoring output did show constantly, also did well.
Cork will say that Liam Hanley continues to impress. John McLoughlin is a very good ball handler, Gary Lowney, who goes up against big midfielders always comes out on a par. Remember, he is a goalie by trade. Francie Cleary and Jason Kelly were the best of the forwards.
Cork: 1 Darren O’Mahoney, 2 Paddy Harrington, 3 Liam Hanley, 4 Derek Courtney (0-1), 5 John Fitzpatrick, 6 John McLoughlin (0-1), 7 Gary Hanley, 8 Gary Lowney (0-1), 9 Rory Stafford (0-2), 10 Francie Cleary, 11 Jason Kelly (1-2), 12 Shea Furlong, 13 Sean McNamee, 14 Tadgh Foley, 15 Sean Purcell (0-1). Sub: Keith McMahon.
Kerry: 1 Shane Clifford, 2 Darren Courtney, 3 Paul McGill, 4 Anthony Glacken, 5 Alan Lyne, 6 Eoghan O’Mahoney, 7 Niall Corbett, 8 Mike Fitzgerald (1-0), 9 Ambrose O’Donovan (0-1), 10 Kevin Walsh (0-3), 11 Dermie Foley (0-1), 12 Sean Reilly, 13 Vinnie Gavin, 14 Ross Donovan (0-1), 15 Darren Moore (1-0). Subs: CJ Molloy, Brian O’Connor.
Man of the match: Kevin Walsh (Kerry).
Referee: Tommy Fahey.