Cork win opening game in McGrath Cup

Cork 6-19
Kerry 2-9

Paul Brennan reports from Austin Stack Park report from

DO NOT ADJUST your mobile device: yes, a Cork football team has beaten Kerry in Tralee by 22 points.

Such is the way the GAA calendar is shaping up these days, it is in the dying days of 2019 that the 2020 football season is taking root for Kerry and Cork, and on this evidence it’s the latter who is breaking through first and looking for that early growth.

Of course, there is still turkey in the fridge so context is essential here. Cork manager Ronan McCarthy sent out a strong looking team with plenty of familiar names in his side, with Mattie Taylor, Ian Maguire, Sean White and Sean Powter joined by Ciaran Sheehan, back in a Rebel jersey after a few years in the AFL in Australia.

With the Kerry senior panel departed for a holiday in Thailand, Peter Keane handed the managerial bib over to U20 boss John Sugrue, who opted to field a very callow and inexperienced panel made up largely of players he will use for the U20 championship. And in the end the result fairly reflected the men against boys flavour to this contest.

There was a time not too long ago that these age-old Munster rivals were meeting three and four times a year, but with Cork slipping down the divisions of the National League, and failing to make the business end of the Championship in recent years, the meetings have been less frequent.

Perhaps, then, it was no surprise to see a healthy crowd of 1,585 pitch up in Tralee this afternoon for this McGrath Cup meeting, with the unseasonably dry and warm weather no doubt drawing a few extra supporters out of the house.


A pity, then, that the contest did little to capture the imagination of those looking in, even though the result will have shortened the journey home for the sparse Cork contingent who will have enjoyed this result, no matter the context.

The first quarter was surprisingly competitive with Kerry taking a 0-2 to no score lead and still leading 0-4 to 0-3 after Sean Quilter’s free in the 12th minute.

However, after Maguire, who was excellent at midfield, equalised for Cork in the 14th minute the Rebels pulled further and further away as Kerry’s inexperience was laid bare.

Cork were 0-8 to 0-4 ahead when Cathail O’Mahony raised the first of their six green flags as they enjoyed an unassailable 1-15 to 0-5 half-time lead, even with the aid of a stiff breeze.

It was 1-16 to 0-7 when Cork’s second goal arrived, through Damien Gore in the 52nd minute, and the Kilmacabea man had his hat trick within seven minutes, goaling first from O’Mahony’s teasing pass and then beating Brian Lonergan from the penalty spot after O’Mahony was fouled, making it 4-16 to 0-7.


Shane Forde’s goal helped make it 5-18 to 0-7 by the 64th minute before Kerry engineered consolation goals from Paul Walsh and Quilter, but the crowds were already headed for the exits by that stage.

To add insult to injury for the home side, the Kingdom’s best player on show, full forward Donal O’Sullivan, limped out with a hamstring problem late on, before substitute Powter added Cork’s sixth goal in what was a sobering afternoon for Sugrue and Kerry.

Ronan McCarthy won’t draw anything from this result other than that his players were workmanlike and disciplined on a day that the new playing rules passed by largely unnoticed. Only one offensive mark was claimed – Cork’s Cathail O’Mahony fluffed the free shot in the 46th minute – and Derek O’Mahony didn’t have to utilise the sin-bin in what was a fairly benign contest from start to finish.

Scorers for Cork: Damien Gore 3-5 (1-0 pen), Cathal O’Mahony 1-4 (0-1f), Shane Forde, Sean Powter 1-0 each, Mattie Taylor, Sean White, Ryan Harkin 0-2 each, Kevin Crowley, Ian Maguire, Paul Walsh, Ciaran Sheehan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kerry: Sean Quilter 1-3 (0-2f), Donal O’Sullivan 0-3 (2f), Paul Walsh 1-0, Paul O’Shea 0-2, Adam O’Donoghue 0-1.


1. Anthony Casey (Kiskeam)

2. Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty)
3. Aidan Browne (Newmarket)
4. Nathan Walsh (Douglas)

5. Kevin Crowley (Millstreet)
6. Peter Murphy (Bandon)
7. Mattie Taylor (Mallow)

8. Ian Maguire (St Finbarrs)
9. Paul Walsh (Kanturk)

10. Shane Forde (Na Piarsaigh)
11. Sean White (Clonakilty)
12. Ryan Harkin (Mallow)

13. Damien Gore (Kilmacabea)
14. Ciaran Sheehan (Eire Og)
15. Cathail O Mahony (Mitchelstown)


17. Paul Ring (Aghabullogue) for N Walsh (inj, 41)
19. Cian Kiely (Ballincollig) for M Taylor (50)
23. Sean Powter (Douglas) for S White (51)
25. Ruairi Deane (Bantry Blues) for C Sheehan (55)
21. Brian Hartnett (Douglas) for P Walsh (59)


1. Brian Lonergan (Ballymacelligott)

2. Sean T Dillon (St Senans)
3. James McCarthy (Kenmare)
18. Luka Brosnan (Castleisland Desmonds)

5. Dan McCarthy (Kenmare)
17. Sean O’Connell (Cordal)
7. Cormac Coffey (Kerins O’Rahillys)

8. Griffin Wharton (Kenmare)
9. Barry Mahony (St Senans)

10. Ronan Buckley (Listry)
11. Paul O’Shea (Kilcummin)
12. Adam Donoghue (Castleisland Desmonds)

13. Paul Walsh (Brosna)
14. Donal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan)
15. Sean Quilter (Austin Stacks)


20. Tadhg Sugrue (Tuosist) for G Wharton (42)
4. Owen Fitzgerald (Gneeveguilla) for S T Dillon (50)
21. Killian Falvey (Annascaul) for B Mahony (59)
19. Seán Óg Moran (Dingle) for J McCarthy (63)
22. Darragh Rahilly (Rathmore) for D O’Sullivan (inj, 63)

Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary