Kerry stick to their guns

Kerry 0-12 Limerick 0-10

But, not for the first time, they showed great resilience when confronted with a serious challenge, gaining renewed confidence from an early scoring burst which yielded three points in almost as many minutes.

Ultimately, they had the finishing power to overcome a spirited Limerick recovery and win with two late points to qualify for the final for the first time since they beat Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 1997. Taking the campaign as a whole, it marked a significant achievement for the new management and the players.

Conversely, the circumstances of their defeat especially when measured against their impressive victory win over Armagh at the same venue a fortnight ago and the manner of their defeat in last year's Munster final in Killarney dealt a severe blow to Limerick morale.

The first quarter was noteworthy for the reason that Kerry were rampant all over the field, with each of their full-forward trio scoring in an eight-minute period.

Declan O'Sullivan in particular was doing a lot of good work, until such time as he began to roam out the field and then lose ground before he was forced off injured in the 24th minute. His loss represented the first really negative feature of their play up to then, except that the gloss from their excellent start had worn off when they went without a fourth score until the 21st minute.

And, during that period, they came close to conceding a goal, when Seamus Moynihan came from nowhere to tackle Stephen Kelly and divert his shot over the line (leading to Limerick's first score, from a well-kicked Eoin Keating fifty into the wind). Limerick's ploy of using wing-back Conor Mullane in a 'sweeping' role in front of the full-back line was proving effective.

Midfield wasn't very conclusive, except that Jason Stokes got the better of William Kirby and Darragh O Sé was prominent in the face of a strong challenge from John Galvin. However, O Sé's involvement ceased in the 29th minute (after a frontal charge on Galvin after the ball had been released) at which stage Limerick had fought back to be only two points in arrears. That resulted from the combination of Kerry's uninspiring form in attack (O'Sullivan's replacement, Michael Quirke, never got a decent ball into his hands ) and Limerick's determined play after Muiris Gavin had kicked over two good points from frees.

Later scores from a 35 yards Keating free and another from Galvin close-in deservedly had Limerick level at the break, 0-5 each. And, with better finishing they could actually have been in front.

Kerry produced a more convincing style of football in the second half as they had done, for instance, against Dublin, and in their last game, against Tyrone.

Three points clear by the 38th minute, Kerry were to hold on to the lead for 18 minutes until the home side again drew level. In between, individual players Liam Hassett, notably, along with Eoin Brosnan (at midfield) and Tomás O Sé (in the centre) stepped up on their displays and the team as a unit performed more effectively. In contrast, Limerick found it very difficult to get going, not helped by the fact that the wind died, but more so limited by the an obvious weakness both in their penetration and their finishing . The Kerry backs were very dependable Moynihan in particular while 'keeper Diarmuid Murphy inspired confidence with his safe handling.

Still, there was always the prospect of a late rally after Johnny Murphy levelled the scores at 0-10 each in the 57th minute except that Keating failed to score from two consecutive fifties. And, after the impressive Brosnan kicked Kerry into the lead and substitute Ronan O'Connor added another score, Gavin was off target with two frees. It just wasn't Limerick's day.

John Geaney did a good job of refereeing. He was strict, fair and made a minimum of mistakes.

Scorers: Kerry M.F. Russell 0-6 (0-5 frees); C. Cooper 0-2; D. O'Sullivan, T. O Se, E. Brosnan and R. O'Connor 0-1 each. Limerick: M. Gavin 0-5 frees; E. Keating 0-3 (0-2 frees, 0-1 fifty); J. Murphy 0-2.

KERRY: D. Murphy; T. O'Sullivan, M. McCarthy, M. O Se; T. O Se, S. Moynihan, A. O'Mahony; D. O Se, W. Kirby; P. Galvin, E. Brosnan, L. Hassett; C. Cooper, D. O'Sullivan, M.F. Russell. Sub: M. Quirke for O'Sullivan (injured, 24th minute); R. O'Connor for Quirke (55th); S. Scanlon for Kirby (60th).

LIMERICK: S. O'Donnell; J. McCarthy, D. Sheehy, M. O'Riordan; D. Reidy, S. Lucey, C. Mullane; J. Stokes, J. Galvin; S. Kelly, M. Gavin, M. O'Brien; C. Hickey, J. Murphy, E. Keating. Subs: P. Browne for Reidy (12th minute); M. Horan for Hickey (49th); M. Jones for O'Donnell (injured, 68th); M. Reidy for Keating and T. Carroll for O'Brien (70th).

Referee: J. Geaney (Cork).

*Attendance: 13,500.

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