NINE points adrift and looking a beaten docket well into in the second half, All-Ireland champions Kerry demonstrated the ruthlessness of a pack of diehard assassins as they set about ripping Cork apart with a power-packed fightback that saw them retain the Munster junior football crown at Páirc Uí Rinn on Leeside last night.
The Kingdom made it four-in-a-row at provincial level and it sets up a semi-final tie with Leitrim as they go in search of their third All-Ireland title on the trot.
A Ronan O’Toole goal had helped impressive Cork to a 1-11 to 0-9 advantage at half-time and when an Eoghan Buckley early in the second half gave them a 2-12 to 0-9 lead, it had Kerry supporters in the disappointing attendance of just over 900 glancing grimly towards the turnstiles.
But slowly, purposefully, Kerry clawed their way back into it in some fashion and goals from Tomás Ó Sé – after good work by Brendan O’Sullivan – and a great Philip O’Connor strike swung the pendulum in the opposite direction
It was the type of material JK Rowling would relish as, almost wizard-like, Kerry turned a nine-points deficit into a seven-points winning margain after a gripping extra time thriller than had both sets of supporters on their feet.
Just before the end of normal time, in fact, Cordal’s Philip O’Connor looked to have won it for Kerry but Killian O’Hanlon restored parity to leave it 2-17 apiece.
With Valentia Young Islander Brendan O’Sullivan absolutely lording it at midfield, Beaufort’s Liam Carey making a big impact from the bench and Evan Cronin from Spa playing his part, two killer goals within a minute in the first extra period finally saw off the stubborn Rebels.
Philip O’Connor netted his second after Brendan O’Sullivan had carved out the opening and the opportunist Tomás Ó Sé added his second when he pounced on a loose rebound after a Liam Carey shot was parried.
The final score was 4-24 to 3-20 in favour of Jimmy Keane’s never-say-die warriors and it was no more than they deserved after a remarkable fightback which proves, if any proof was needed, that they are not quite ready to part with their status of All-Ireland kingpins just yet.
Kerry scorers: Tomas Ó Sé 2-3, Philip O’Connor 2-3, Conor Cox 0-5 (0-3 frees) Liam Carey 0-4, Jeff O’Donoghue 0-3, 0-2 frees), Killian Spillane 0-2, Ivan Parker 0-2 (frees), Brendan O’Sullivan 0-1, Eanna Ó Conchúir 0-1
Kerry: Tomas Mac an tSaoir (An Ghaeltacht), Eamonn Kiely (Brosna), Jack McGuire (Listowel Emmets), Pa Kilkenny (Glenbeigh-Glencar), James Walsh (Knocknagoshel), Michael Foley (Ballydonoghue), Daniel O’Brien (Glenflesk), Roibeárd Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), Brendan O’Sullivan (Valentia), Philip O’Connor (Cordal), Jeff O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), Eánna Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), Killian Spillane (Templenoe), Conor Cox (Listowel Emmets), Tomás Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht).
Subs: Liam Carey (Beaufort) for O’Donoghue, Brandon Barrett for Ó Conchúir, Ivan Parker for Cox, Evan Cronin for Spillane, DJ Murphy for Walsh, PJ MacLámh for Foley, Stephen O’Sullivan for Carey (inj).