ROSCOMMON 0-13 KERRY 2-17
The sun shone, David Clifford returned after months on the sideline to dazzle us all with his bountiful gifts and, when all was said and done, Kerry had booked a place in next week’s league final against Mayo with ne’er a hint of fuss.
All seems well in the Kingdom.
Roscommon’s day made for the polar opposite. Defeat here condemned Anthony Cunningham’s side to the drop into the second tier and there was only the briefest of periods when it looked like they might engineer something approaching a great escape.
Outscoring Kerry by five points to one through the middle chunk of the first-half suggested that Roscommon might be equal to the fight, but it was an all-to brief storm when they had a billowing wind at their backs.
Conor Cox has been the Rossies’ main man in front of goal this past few months but the Listowel Emmets man was shepherded with some distinction by Peter Crowley and the remainder of the home strike force never looked like taking up the slack.
Only two points from play were mined by the six starting forwards, and the contrast with their Kerry counterparts was probably the starkest illustration of the gap between sides who would end up at opposite ends of the league table.
Clifford was a joy to watch. Time and again he makes a pass or sees a run that mere mortals can only dream about and he helped stitch together a number of sublime moves while adding two points from play and three from frees.
The smile that creased his face as he was subbed off just before the end spoke volumes for a man returning after surgery on his shoulder and such a long rehab, and to think that he missed two great chances to find the net after the first and 17th minutes to boot.
If nothing else, those spurned opportunities may help keep a lid on the hype for a tad longer and it isn’t as though he was alone in returning southwards with the satisfaction of a job well done.
The entire forward line was a blizzard of pace and clever touches and devilish runs at times. Sean O’Shea’s spring blossoming continued, Tommy Walsh was a superb link-man while Dara Moynihana and Stephen O’Brien balanced craft with sheer graft.
The latter was sensational on the day.
All told, this was about as straightforward a road trip as a team can expect in the top tier and even the emotionless Peter Keane was willing to accept that it wasn’t a bad afternoon’s work for his young and developing team: “One of the things we learned was ... ye would have been questioning us on our lack of goals up to this, but we created goalscoring opportunities today.
We had about three goalscoring opportunities in the first ten minutes of the game alone. Didn’t take any of them but we were creating them and you won’t score any of you don’t create them.
“So, from that perspective, I was happy and, again, a lot of the young lads went out there today and did well again. You had Graham O’Sullivan: was it his first start today? He had come on as a sub in other games and he did well.
“It’s about all these lads, you are getting James (O’Donoghue) back and you are getting David back. So I am happy enough with where we are at.”
Kerry won this game in less than ten minutes towards the end of the first period, when in the wake of Roscommon’s purple path, they responded with an unanswered 1-4 that had at its heart a wonderful team goal that was finished off by O’Shea.
Three points to the good at the break, the visitors resumed with the wind at their backs and another burst of scores — this time amounting to 1-3 with the goal coming from O’Brien — put the game to bed with 25 minutes of normal time still to play.
Kerry’s first wide hadn’t registered until first-half injury-time.Even that was on the back of an unpunished shove on Moynihan as he let loose and Roscommon were depending on frees to keep them within the same postcode.
Nitpicks? Kerry’s defence hasn’t always convinced this campaign as question marks linger over the right personnel and the best places for them and Keane touched on that very point ahead of next Sunday’s decider against the only side to have beaten them thus far.
“What was it? 1-8 to 0-8 at half-time?” said the Kerry manager.
“Eight points was a lot of scores to have conceded and that is something that we weren’t hugely happy with. Thirteen points conceded, that will win you a lot of games in the league.”
Scorers for Roscommon: C Cox (0-4 frees); D Smith (0-2 frees); D Murtagh (0-2, 1 free); R Daly (0-2); S Killoran, N Kilroy, C Cregg.
Scorers for Kerry: S O’Shea (1-5, 0-4 frees); D Clifford (0-5, 0-3 frees); S O’Brien (1-2); D Moynihan (0-2); T O’Sullivan, J O’Donoghue and D ‘O’Connor (all 0-1).
ROSCOMMON: C Lavin; D Murray, S Mullooly, C Daly; C Hussey, N Daly, R Daly; T O’Rourke, S Killoran; N Kilroy, C Cregg, U Harney; D Smith, C Cox, A Lyons.
Subs: E Smith for Lyons (HT); D Murtagh for D Smith (45); C Devaney for Kilroy (48); H Darcy for Cregg (57); G [Patterson for N Daly (67).
KERRY: S Ryan; J Sherwood, P Crowley, G O’Sullivan; G Crowley, P Murphy, T O’Sullivan; J Barry, D O’Connor; D Moynihan, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; D Clifford, T Walsh, K McCarthy.
Subs: K Spillane for McCarthy (5); J O’Donoghue for Walsh (50); J Foley for Sherwood (52); M Griffin for (Crowley (57); C Geaney for Clifford (65).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).