By Brendan O’Brien, Croke Park
Kerry 1-11 Derry 1-6
Jack O’Connor’s Kerry side booked its place in the Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor football final on Sunday afternoon with a convincing defeat of Derry at Croke Park.
The Kingdom, with just a handful of the players who won the All-Ireland title 11 months ago, will now face either Kildare or Tipperary who meet at HQ next weekend.
Kerry started brilliantly, establishing a lead of five points to one after 13 minutes and demonstrating a patience and practicality in attack that boded well for the rest of the game, but they failed to build on that early buttress in the second quarter.
Derry slowly clambered into the contest and came close to claiming a goal after 21 minutes when full-forward Francis Kearney rose highest close to the Kerry net to punch a dropping ball just over the crossbar.
A Shane McGuigan free soon after reduced the deficit to just two before John Mark Foley gave Kerry their sixth point and a three-point half-time lead.
The third quarter was much better.
Within four minutes of the restart the sides were level after defender Conor Maunsell’s point attempt dipped under the Kerry bar and into the net via the fingertips of the unfortunate goalkeeper Billy Courtney who had dealt well with a few earlier dangers around his square.
The response was impressive with Kerry claiming four of the next five scores including a superb 38th minute team goal that tore Derry open at the back and ended with Michael Foley palming home into an open goal.
With fifteen minutes left Kerry led by five points and Derry had a mountain to climb.
They looked unlikely to succeed given one star forward, Conor Glass, was out of sorts with his shooting on the day and another, Shane McGuigan, was sent to the line for a black card offence a dozen minutes from the end.
So it proved. Kerry’s day.
Scorers for Kerry: M Foley (1-3); C Geaney (0-5, 3 frees); JM Foley (0-2); A Barry (0-1).
Scorers for Derry: C Maunsell (1-0); F Kearney (0-2); S McGuigan (0-2, 1 free); C Glass (0-1 free); N McAtamney (0-1).
Kerry: B Courtney; D Brosnan, J Foley, J Morgan; G White, M Breen, D O’Brien; A Barry, JM Foley; B O Seanchain, S O’Shea, B Barrett; M Foley, B Sweeney, C Geaney. Substitutes: T O’Sullivan for Brosnan and M O’Connor for Breen (both 37); S O’Sullivan for Barrett (46); E Cronin for O’Shea (56).
Derry: C Mullan-Young; N Keenan, C McGrogan, C Maunsell; O Duffin, M McEvoy, E Concannon; P Kearney, J Doherty; P Coney, S Downey, C Glass; T Flanagan, F Kearney, S McGuigan. Substitutes: N McAtamney for P Kearney (HT); G McLaughlin for Duffin (36); F Higgins for Maunsell and B Grant for Coney (both 42); S Higgins for McGuigan (black card, 48).
Referee: J Henry (Mayo).