Kerry made hard work of seeing off Clare in heavy conditions to book a Munster final spot against Cork in three weeks’ time.
The Cusack Park hosts’ resistance appeared broken by a run of 1-6 before the break, with James O’Donoghue’s bullet goal seemingly clinching the tie, but Clare never threw in the towel despite trailing by as many as 12 points after the resumption.
They ended six behind without getting any closer to a 13-man Kerry, who had Mark Griffin sent-off after two bookings and Tommy Walsh black carded after all their subs were used. They had been outscored 0-9 to 0-6 in the second period, with Clare scoring eight of the last ten points.
The Kerry performance certainly left plenty of room for improvement, with three early goal chances squandered and long scoreless stretches during a laboured second-half showing that saw them amass only five points in front of 5,037 spectators foregoing the draw of the Champions League final.
It did give Keane a chance to run his bench, but they didn’t rescue the situation. James O’Donoghue being withdrawn after seeming to feel a slight hamstring twinge and Sean O’Shea walking off after a clash of heads with Kevin Hartnett, who was worryingly stretchered off only after a significant stoppage, gave both managers some reason for concern.
Colm Collins endured a sixth Championship defeat to Kerry in his sixth year as manager, although his side emerged with pride from their late revival.
Kerry started seven debutants against Clare last year at Fitzgerald Stadium, a 0-32 to 0-10 demolition job. This year there were another four, with Robert Wharton making it five from the bench.
The win looked safe by the interval, though, with Kerry finally taking the air out of Clare’s tyres with a scoring streak of 1-6 to a point in a 14-minute spell to make it 1-9 to 0-3 at the break.
They had found themselves only 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after 23 minutes, and David Moran black carded by then too (a decision which took many by surprise), but they could’ve had three goals inside the first quarter.
Conall Ó hAiniféin made a diving block to stop a Stephen O’Brien shot, taken after he had been knocked to the ground, from finding the bottom corner. Then, Sean O’Shea and Paul Geaney hit either post in quick succession, with O’Shea’s chance particularly glaring after his dummy forced third-choice goalie Stephen Ryan out of position.
Points from David Moran, Geaney, and David Clifford were Kerry’s only return from that period but they kicked on with three frees to weaken Clare’s resolve.
A debut point from Diarmuid O’Connor was Kerry’s first score from play in 19 minutes when it arrived on the half-hour, but Clifford added another before James O’Donoghue rocketed a goal to the net in the 34th minute. That came from good work by Clifford, but finished superbly when many more would’ve settled for a point.
Clifford almost added another goal before the break, but Cian O’Dea got a goal-saving block.
Clare’s struggle for scores continued on from the Waterford game, in which they scored 0-9, but no-score after the 38th minute. Eoin Cleary and David Tubridy kicked fine late scores - over an hour of action after that last point from play.
The second-half looked a formality, despite plenty of Kerry toil and errors, until Clare narrowed within that nine-point deficit late on.
Highlights for Kerry were a debut score from Adrian Spillane and a Micheál Burns point from play, but there were many more lowlights as Clare dominated the middle third, isolating the Kerry attack. When Cleary, Jamie Malone, and Tubridy, with a fine long point, kicked three in a row for Clare, they were back to 1-14 to 0-9 behind.
Then, Mark Griffin got sent-off for a second yellow card and Malone kicked a score from the resulting play. The gap was seven.
The long stoppage for Hartnett’s head injury took the sting out of the game.
Malone restarted things with a third point, Clare’s fifth in a row, although Jason Foley responded for Kerry in the 87th minute - their first since an O’Shea free in the 56th minute.
Cleary scored his fifth point but then missed a costly close-in free that would’ve closed the gap to five.
When Tubridy’s low ‘65 was flicked wide, James Molloy concluded the game after 21 minutes of added time.
Munster GAA SFC Semi-final
Kerry: 1-15(18) pic.twitter.com/1wpokkM7rQ— Clare Gaa (@GaaClare) June 1, 2019
Scorers for Clare: E Cleary (0-5, 3 frees); D Tubridy (1 free); J Malone (0-3 each), C O’Connor (0-1).
Scorers for Kerry: S O’Shea (0-5 frees); J O’Donoghue (1-1); D Clifford (0-3, 1 free); D Moran, P Geaney, D O’Connor, A Spillane, M Burns, J Foley (0-1 each).
CLARE: S Ryan; K Hartnett, C Brennan, G Kelly; S Collins, A Fitzgerald, C Ó hAiniféin; C O’Connor, S O’Donoghue; E Cleary, G Brennan, J Malone; C O’Dea, D Tubridy, D Bohannon.
Subs: G Cooney for Bohannon (ht), D Ryan for Ó hAiniféin (BC, 42), K Malone for O’Donoghue (49), E Collins for S Collins (53), C Murray for C Brennan (61), A Sweeney for Hartnett (70+10).
KERRY: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; S Enright, J Sherwood, G Crowley; D Moran, A Spillane; D O’Connor, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, J O’Donoghue.
Subs: M Griffin for Moran (BC, 18), G White for Sherwood (ht), M Burns for O’Brien (45), R Wharton for Crowley (49), T Walsh for O’Donoghue (53 inj), J Lyne for O’Shea (70+2 inj).
Red card: M Griffin (66).
Unreplaced black card: T Walsh (70+16).
Referee: J Molloy (Galway).