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Kerry footballers clobber Cork

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — Kerry are now strong favorites to win this year’s All-Ireland football title following last weekend’s crushing semifinal victory over Munster rivals Cork Sunday at Croke Park. A game that had been eagerly anticipated ended up as a humiliation for Cork as the Kingdom forwards produced a master class of attacking play during the first half.

As the precocious teenager Colm Cooper, Mike Frank Russell and Darragh O Se toyed with the opposition defense, Cork had already lost the contest by the time they lost their heads. With the losers’ frustration boiling to the surface, both captain Colin Corkery and Fionnan Murray were sent off, along with one of Kerry’s subs, Tom O’Sullivan.

While Cork were clearly angered by some of referee Brian White’s decisions — and there can be no doubt that White handled the game poorly — the demeanor of Corkery and his teammates did them no credit. Almost from the off, Corkery remonstrated with White repeatedly, on one occasion jostled him, and eventually deserved to get his marching orders for a petulant performance that was totally out of character.

The origins of Corkery’s feud with White were obvious enough. His team’s ineffectual display was a factor, the inaccurate supply of ball from the midfield was another, but most of all, the way Corkery was being outplayed by Seamus Moynihan must have rankled him.

If Corkery had comprehensively won the showdown between two of the summer’s most influential footballers in the Munster championship clash in June, this time Moynihan came out on top, restricting Cork’s dangerman to just two points from play. With so much pressure heaped on Corkery to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and with so little to show for his efforts, he quite simply lost his cool.

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But afterward, he was making no apologies for his exchanges with White. “His performance was definitely not up to scratch and I’m talking about the decisions he made all over the field,” Corkery said. “Halfway through the second half he told me he would look at things more closely from that point on, but nothing ever changed. I also asked him to speak to the umpires about some of the tactics of the Kerry backs, but he seemingly never did.

“We put in a huge amount of effort and time to get our county to this stage of the championship and of course we don’t get a penny for it. So it’s very disappointing that our chances of getting to the All-Ireland final are hampered by the unsatisfactory performance of the referee.”

However, while Corkery was fuming at what he saw as White’s failure to spot fouling by the Kerry defense, Kerry were getting on with the game in style. A blistering start by Cooper and Russell caused consternation in the Cork rearguard as point after point rained down. Owen Sexton had closed down Cooper in the June game, but on the back of his impressive form during the qualifier series, Cooper looked a far less confident and fearless player than before.

As the ball was sent in to the danger zone by Darragh O Se and Donal Daly, the Cork defenders were scorched by the movement and precision of Cooper and Russell, who finished the game with 1-6 and 1-5, respectively. Corkery had got a dazed Cork on the board, but by the 20th minute the situation looked helpless as Kerry were clear by 0-8 to 0-1. That soon worsened when Russell smacked a perfect low shot past Kevin O’Dwyer for the first goal, and then the impish Cooper fashioned a second with a sublime left-foot finish following Daly’s assist, which opened the gap to a massive 12 points.

If Cork were at sixes and sevens all over the pitch, for the best part of half an hour Kerry reminded the 47,000 spectators that Gaelic football can be a beautiful game.

“We have no excuses, Kerry were better on the day and deserved their win,” said Cork’s manager, Larry Tompkins, whose stewardship is now almost certainly over. “They made it very difficult for us by being so quick out of the blocks.”

There was some respite to the Kerry onslaught when Philip Clifford pulled back a goal after a rare Moynihan error just before the interval, but according to victorious manager Paidi O Se, that only concentrated his players’ minds even more.

“I think conceding that goal kept us extremely focused,” he said “You could say it kept us tuned in because it was a bad error at a time when we were certainly going very well.”

Whatever chance Cork had of staging of revival similar to the one in Killarney in 2000 was scuppered when Kerry took the first three points after the restart. Predictably, there was more of a challenge from Cork for a period as the winners found it difficult to sustain such a fast pace. Murray burst through for a spectacular goal and if a rasping Corkery shot had found the target, the gap would have been down to five points.

However, the undercurrent of Cork frustration finally came to a head and both Clifford were Tomas O Se were fortunate not to have been sent off when a melee broke out among at least 10 players. Then White, who should have taken firmer measures earlier in the game, showed red cards to both Tom O’Sullivan and Murray for fighting in the 59th minute, and that was followed a minute later by Corkery’s dismissal for what appeared to be dissent.

“If some of the referee’s decisions go against you, it can be annoying,” Moynihan said. “They felt the ref was some way harsh and there is so much at stake, you can lose your temper. But it is very unlike Colin and, you know, I felt sorry for the man because he did very little really to be sent off after such a good year.”

So, as Kerry reflected on their victory over last year’s champions Galway and on this triumph over the Munster champions, they will have noticed that despite their exuberant form, they still have precisely nothing to show for their summer’s work.

Whether it’s Dublin or Armagh who face them in the final, you get the feeling that they already have one hand on the Sam Maguire.

Limerick 2-20, Antrim 2-6

Limerick remain on course for a third successive All-Ireland Under 21 hurling title following last weekend’s semifinal victory over Antrim at Parnell Park. Limerick came through with Mark Keane responsible for 1-10 of the winners’ total.

Limerick now face Galway in the final. Galway defeated Wexford by 1-20 to 1-10 in their semifinal at Thurles. Ger Farragher was the star of the show, registering 0-13 from midfield.

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