TONY LEEN: With only a brief pause for prize-giving, Kerry drive on

Such is the way of these things now Munster finals wins, even four of them in a row, are viewed through the prism and in the context of August and September.

As an argument for the retention of the provincial championship format, the unseemly haste with which the debate moves on makes a fairly leaky case for the Remain As Is traditionalists.

The monies harvested from yesterday’s Killarney crowd of 21,512 will fund much good work, but the bean counters won’t want too many finals without a rush of red on the terraces.

Afterwards Bryan Sheehan collected the cup that doesn’t have a name, wished Tipperary the best in the qualifiers, and moved though the crowds to the dressing room. Munster title No 78.

Kerry made light/hard work (delete as appropriate) of Tipperary’s challenge, winning by 10 after conceding a goal inside 40 seconds. Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his cohorts will dissect this Munster final as thoroughly as one can, and if they’re of a mind they might focus on conceding 2-10 and the tracts of space and uncertainty in their last third.

But with 20 minutes remaining, Kerry led 3-10 to 1-5 and their players would be automatons if the throttle wasn’t released. They might also have been a little giddy with pleasure at the manner of that clinical third goal.

Come the Croke Park phase of the Championship, the Kingdom will have to bring a fresh arm from the bull-pen, something or someone that will knock the likes of Dublin - and by that we actually mean Dublin - back on their asses.

Not even Kerry has a capacity to stir their sauce with a secret ingredient, but there’s a swell of options available to management now that might keep opponents guessing.

Paul Geaney is one such.

His turn and burn - onto his supposedly weaker left side - for the third goal on 50 minutes was further evidence that when in the peak of his fitness, the Dingle man is the purest net finisher in the squad.

The frustration is that his fitness peak is a seldom seen phenomenon, but afterwards yesterday, he was of a mind to point out his pleasure, and one suspects relief, at finishing two consecutive championship matches in a row.

Where some of his colleagues nursed their pride and their bodies back to wellbeing after the no- show in September against Dublin, Geaney underwent a back operation, then a shoulder procedure for good measure. He returned in the League this spring against Monaghan, but it’s only in the last six weeks he is showing again the type of sharpness and nous in the scoring areas that lit up the opening seconds of the All- Ireland final two years ago.

He claimed 2-3 from play against Tipp, and the first half goal was again rifled home with the authority of a sniper. It was created by Mikey Geaney, his cousin who’s had his own road back to health from a back operation last autumn.

Add to the mix the rehabilitation of Anthony Maher and the return of James O’Donoghue, also the debutant finalists, Briain Ó Beaglaoich and Tadhg Morley, and it’s clear the Kingdom has some straws to stir with.

But they look to have lost Colm Cooper for the quarter-finals in four weeks with a collarbone injury.

Even if he is medically able for the last eight, it’s doubtful whether Kerry would take an unnecessary risk with their conductor.

Liam Kearns, the Tipperary manager of Tralee stock, was also of the view afterwards Kerry’s game pace mightn’t take them all the way to September.

“In my heart, I’d say yes but in my head, I’d say no,”; he indicated.

“They have the forwards alright, if they got everybody fit, maybe...I’d say Tipp were lacking in a few areas today, and maybe they (Kerry) are also lacking in a few areas.”

One might safely assume Kearns was referring to the fact Kerry’s ageing legs in certain areas might be their undoing. Hence Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s delight at the half back displays of Ó Beaglaoich and Morley in the absence of their anchor Peter Crowley, who missed out after clashing heads with Johnny Buckley in training.

Said Kearns: “They’re working at it and Eamonn thinks about the game. I’ve no doubt they’ll improve.”

It’s four weeks to the Kingdom’s All-Ireland quarter-final, and though their last eight opponents may not come from the clutch of ‘name’ counties, the breadth and space of Croke Park brings its own unique considerations.

Kerry will have to decide whether the experience of Donaghy at midfield and O’Mahony in defence is greater than the threat of being outrun by younger rivals. By the time the Championship is down to the last four, it may be the Kingdom’s greatest dilemma - on the basis, of course, they are still involved.

They led by six at the break in Killarney, and Tipp wasted three chances after the restart to test Kerry’s gut. In the 40th minute, a Kerry sideline ball from Paul Geaney to Donnchadh Walsh was threaded without interruption to Stephen O’Brien for his first point. It was too easy at moments like that, and the fundamental difference between Division One and Division Three pace.

Michael Quinlivan warmed Brian Kelly’s hands before Kerry started unloading the heavy artillery off the bench. Moran, Lyne, Barry John Keane.

“Then I looked around with 10 minutes left and thought, lovely, they are bringing on James O’Donoghue now,” smiled a rueful Kearns later.

The Legion man clocked up four quick points to take into July’s preparations for Jones’ Road.

“We know where we are, we have our targets,” Paul Geaney added.

Four Munsters in a row is laudable, the first since the Golden Years. But it won’t roll anyone’s socks up and down come August and September.


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