The introduction of three Kerry subs settled this Munster U-20FC final after a dour first period where the sides went in level at 0-3 apiece. Both No 7s Seán Brady for Cork and Tommy Cronin for Kerry had goal chances denied in the first half but it was a tough watch with some awful mistakes on both sides.
homas O’Donnell’s 32nd-minute goal was a great move involving Dylan Geaney, Keith Evans and Evan Looney to put Kerry 1-3 to 0-4 ahead. Cork stayed in touch with a point from Alan Walsh in the 53rd minute which had the match seemingly on a knife edge, 1-5 to 0-7.
However, Kerry substitutes Gearóid Hassett, Jordan Kissane and Jack O’Connor all scored a brace of points each in inspiring Kerry to their eventual double-score win as Evan Looney along with Ruairí Murphy at midfield had impressive performances for the victors.
Despite the nature of their win, Kerry’s management team, headed up by Declan O’Sullivan, will know they will need to be a lot sharper against Ulster champions Tyrone in their All-Ireland semi-final after amassing 11 wides in a tactical struggle in Tralee’s Austin Stack Park.
The opening half was disappointing as both sides struggled up front and as a result scores were at a premium.
The Kingdom started brightly with Keith Evans kicking the opening point inside a minute but Cork were soon on level terms with Ryan O’Donovan firing over after a incisive pass from wing-back Brady.
Cork’s plot was to run at Kerry but the Kingdom’s defence was solid with Enda O’Connor, Joey Nagle and Armin Heinrich outstanding.
It was up front that both counties turned the ball over with regularity and as well as being guilty of squandering good possession.
Though the sides were level in the 53rd minute, it was Kerry’s bench that proved the match-winner as Cork tired.
This provincial success moves Kerry one ahead of Cork in the U-20/U-21 roll of honour with their 29th title win.
Kerry: T O’Donnell 1-1; G Hassett, J O’Connor, J Kissane 0-2 each; R Murphy, E Looney, D Geaney (f), K Evans 0-1 each.
Cork: R O’Donovan 0-2; C O’Hanlon (f), C Walsh, H Murphy, A Walsh, S Brady 0-1 each.
KERRY – D Burns; D O’Callaghan, A Dineen, J Nagle; E O’Connor, A Heinrich, T Cronin; R Murphy, S O’Brien; K Evans, T O’Donnell, E Looney; K Goulding, C Burke, D Geaney. Subs: A Curran for Cronin (inj h-t), G Hassett for Goulding (42), J O’Connor for Evans (47), T Doyle for O’Brien (48), J Kissane for O’Donnell (55).
CORK – C Dungan; N Lordan, J O’Driscoll, D Peet; D Cashman, T Walsh, R O’Sullivan; K Scannell, A Walsh; H Murphy, S Brady, D O’Mahony; R O’Donovan, C Walsh, C O’Hanlon. Subs: A Walsh-Murphy for O’Sullivan (29, temporary), L O’Connell for Hanlon (h-t), P O’Driscoll for O’Mahony (43), F Fenner for Scannell (47), E Walsh for C Walsh (57), C Daly for Brady (58).
Ref – C Maguire (Clare)