Late points secure Munster title for Kerry

Kerry 1-17 Limerick 1-14

Limerick suffered Munster final heartbreak once again as Kerry won a closely-fought Killarney duel for their first provincial success since 2007.

Late points from top scorer Colm Cooper (1-5), substitute David Moran and Tomas O Se put the seal on a hard-fought win for Jack O’Connor’s side who allowed Limerick back into the contest after moving 1-14 to 0-10 ahead.

Limerick had the backing of a blustery wind in the first half and were 0-10 to 0-7 ahead at half-time, Ger Collins and free-taking goalkeeper Brian Scanlon leading the scoring.

Kerry replied with 1-7 in a devastating second-half spell and although man-of-the-match John Galvin netted for the Shannonsiders, the heavy favourites prevailed to leave Limerick still without a Munster SFC title since 1896.

That lapse early in the second half when Kerry took control and a frustrating wides tally of twelve will haunt Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s men who would have been deserving winners if the scoreline was reversed.

But despite Kerry playing in fits and starts, they showed enough of a killer instinct, particularly when the roaming Mike McCarthy, Declan O’Sullivan and Cooper were on the ball, to win out in front of a 23,864-strong crowd.

Kerry manager O’Connor made one change to the team that saw off Cork in the semi-final replay, David Moran losing out to last year’s All-Ireland winning captain Darran O’Sullivan. Anthony Maher was also switched to midfield.

Former Kerry star Mickey Ned O’Sullivan resisted the temptation to tinker with the Limerick side that overcame Waterford at the semi-final stage, meaning that twelve players from last year’s one-point final defeat to Cork started once again.

Goalkeeper Brian Scanlon, left corner back Andrew Lane and centre-forward James Ryan were Limerick’s first-time Munster finalists, and the Shannonsiders showed no signs of nerves when making a dream start.

They were 0-3 to 0-0 up within two minutes of the start, using their wind advantage intelligently. Midfielder John Galvin powered forward straight from the throw-in to fist over after just 14 seconds, and Ger Collins followed up with a towering free and a point from play, the latter set up by Stephen Kelly.

Kelly covered a huge amount of ground in the opening 35 minutes and came in for some harsh treatment from the Kerry defenders, Tomas O Se being a touch fortunate to remain on the pitch. But, for the most part, the game was played in good spirits and both sides looked to attack at will.

Limerick moved 0-4 to 0-0 ahead when Ian Ryan forced Tommy Griffin away from the Kerry square and Collins darted into the space to knock over his third point. Tomas O Se punched over Kerry’s opening score in response, and when Stephen Lucey, who dropped back to mark Kieran Donaghy, fouled Kerry’s target man, Colm Cooper converted the resulting free.

Some terrific movement in the Limerick attack, with Galvin and James Ryan picking up possession, set up a right-footed score from Jim O’Donovan, before the open, expansive football continued at the other end – McCarthy setting up a drilled effort from Darran O’Sullivan.

The pace of the Kerry half-forwards was beginning to put Limerick on the back foot, and Bryan Sheehan fired over a free to close the gap to 0-5 to 0-4. Limerick responded with three points in quick succession, two inspirational blocks in defence providing the platform to attack from.

Net minder Brian Scanlon, who scored a crucial ‘45’ in Limerick’s NFL Division 4 final win earlier this year, strode forward to knock over a long range free, and Kelly held his composure to score off his left, in spite of a late challenge from Tomas O Se.

Scanlon doubled his tally with another free from distance, making it 0-8 to 0-4, and O’Connor tried to thwart Limerick’s midfield dominance by bringing Donaghy back to centre-field and introducing Micheal Quirke for Maher.

Sheehan tapped over his second free before James Ryan, latching onto a superb diagonal ball from Seanie Buckley, claimed Limerick’s ninth point. There tenth followed when their captain Buckley outfoxed Tomas O Se close to the sideline and split the posts from a tight angle.

However, Kerry took some much-needed momentum into the second half courtesy of late points from McCarthy, who was playing in an advanced role, and Cooper (free).

The first 15 minutes of the second half were all Kerry as they clinically picked off a succession of scores and seemingly suffocated the life out of Limerick. Cooper was the instigator, jinking onto his right to float over an excellent point from the left wing.

By the 41st minute, the sides were level at 0-10 apiece, following a fisted point from Quirke and another Cooper free off his left. All the time, Limerick’s wides tally mounted into a difficult wind – Buckley, Ian Ryan and Stephen Lavin dragging shots away from the posts.

McCarthy increased his influence by breaking onto a loose ball and setting up Declan O’Sullivan for the lead score, and O’Sullivan then played a one-two with Donaghy before rifling over Kerry’s seventh point on the trot.

Kerry were ominously hitting their stride, with Cooper sending a well-weighted ball over the top for the overlapping McCarthy to fist over for 0-13 to 0-10. The divisional divide was becoming more and more obvious as Declan O’Sullivan smacked over a skyscraper point off his left.

Limerick’s defence was cut wide open in the 50th minute, Donnacha Walsh side-footing a breaking ball through for the unmarked Cooper to smash high past Scanlon for what looked to be a decisive goal.

Trailing now by 1-14 to 0-10, Limerick needed a huge response and they got it, inspired by the talismanic Galvin.

Collins cut onto his left to notch Limerick’s first point in 22 minutes and a quick dispossession from the resulting kick-out led to the unchallenged Galvin blasting to the middle of the net, over Kealy, for a priceless 54th minute goal.

The green-clad supporters roared their approval as Limerick, with the bit between their teeth, tagged on three more points. James Ryan fisted over from a tight angle, Collins, who dominated his marker Tom O’Sullivan, converted a free and Galvin then broke through the middle, evading Walsh’s challenge to kick his side level at 1-14 apiece.

McCarthy’s influence in open play was being thwarted by substitute John Mullane and Limerick’s marking was significantly tighter as they played their way back into contention. The tension was palpable around the hour mark as Sheehan, Scanlon twice and substitute David Moran missed point-scoring chances.

O’Connor emptied his bench, trying to give his side some fresh impetus up front and it paid off eventually. Cooper found the woodwork as he tried to fist over from a tight angle, and substitute Barry John Keane failed to find the target from further out.

The match-winning run was kickstarted by a Cooper effort, Kerry’s first score in 18 minutes, and good vision from Keane set up an unmarked Moran for a quickfire second. Stretching Limerick’s rearguard to the maximum, Tomas O Se thundered through for a trademark point off his left, and suddenly the scoreboard read 1-17 to 1-14.

After substitute Eoghan O’Connor put his name to Limerick’s twelfth wide, missing the target on the run, O’Sullivan tried valiantly to create a goal that would square up this memorable contest.

Galvin was sent in towards the Kerry square and created enough havoc to force a close range free in injury-time, and a dramatic conclusion. Goalkeeper Kealy brought seven team-mates back onto the line to assist him and Stephen Lavin’s powerful shot was blocked out, confirming a frustrating fourth Munster final defeat for Limerick in eight years.

Scorers: Kerry: C Cooper 1-5 (0-03f), Declan O’Sullivan 0-3, B Sheehan (0-2f), M McCarthy, T O Se 0-2 each, Darran O’Sullivan, M Quirke, D Moran 0-1 each

Limerick: G Collins 0-5 (0-2f), J Galvin 1-2, B Scanlon (0-2f), J Ryan 0-2 each, J O’Donovan, S Kelly, S Buckley 0-1 each

KERRY: B Kealy; M O Se, T Griffin, T O’Sullivan; T O Se, M McCarthy, K Young; S Scanlon, A Maher; Darran O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, B Sheehan (capt).

Subs used: M Quirke for Maher (34 mins), BJ Keane for Darran O’Sullivan, Padraig Reidy for T O’Sullivan (both 59), D Moran for Scanlon (61), K O’Leary for Sheehan (63).

LIMERICK: B Scanlon; M O'Riordan, J McCarthy, A Lane; S Lavin, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J O'Donovan, J Galvin; P Browne, J Ryan, S Buckley (capt); G Collins, I Ryan, S Kelly.

Subs used: J Mullane for Browne (40 mins), S Gallagher for Lane (46), E Joy for Buckley (57), E O’Connor for Kelly (62), S O’Carroll for J Ryan (70+1).

Referee: Patrick Fox (Westmeath)

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