Kerry battle past brave Banner

BELIEF. That was the major difference between the teams in yesterday evening’s Munster MFC first-round game in Ennis. There were other differences; Kerry were that bit slicker in their movement, they had the better fielders in the middle of the park, they had more balance in their attack, but on this evening at least, had Clare had any belief in themselves they would have been much closer at the finish.

Two points from right-corner forward Paul Geary, sandwiched round a pointed free by powerful centre-forward Colm O’Shea, had Kerry 0-3 to 0-0 ahead after 11 minutes, before towering full-forward Seán Crotty had the home side’s first score, a fine strike off his left from wide right.

After that it was back to business for Kerry. Looking sharper in movement, more cohesive and alert, they added a further five points before the break, wing-forwards Daithi Casey and Mike Tim O’Sullivan with one apiece, centre-forward Colm O’Shea with his second, and dangerous full-forward Barry-John Walsh with a beauty.

This put Kerry 0-8 to 0-1 ahead. Clare did manage a second point before half-time, free-taker Cathal McInerney doing the honours, but it was scant reward for what had been a decent effort into the breeze.

In a match without rancour, referee Donal Cahill didn’t help anyone’s cause with his eagerness to blow his whistle; 20 frees in the first half, two yellow cards (both to Kerrymen, Shane Carroll and Peter Crowley), but those totals were topped in the second period: 31 frees, a further six yellow cards. It made what could have been an enjoyable match tedious in the extreme.

In the second half, with the wind now more or less at their backs, Clare finally began to look the part. Opting for the long high ball into Crotty on the edge of the square, they took the fight to the Kingdom and with points from McInerney (two fouls on Crotty), Crotty himself and Michael McDonagh, and with Kerry’s Colm O’Shea replying with a point in between, they had it to within a score, 0-9 to 0-6 in the 48th minute.

A second O’Shea point, this one from a placed ball, gave Kerry breathing space but it was still there for Clare, had they that belief. Instead we got 10 minutes of sterility, some terrible shooting by Clare, before midfielder Wayne Guthrie, the best player on view, made it safe for Kerry with a well-executed injury-time goal.

Kerry boss John Kennedy said “It was a real battle but our lads dug deep. We got the rub of the green in the finish. Clare put it up to us.”

“We lacked belief in the first half,” said Clare manager Michael Considine, “But that’s the problem in Clare – they saw the Kerry jersey.”

Scorers: Kerry: C. O’Shea 0-4 (0-2 frees); W. Guthrie 1-0; P. Geary 0-2; D. Casey, M.T. O’Sullivan, N. O’Shea, B.J. Walsh (free) 0-1 each. Clare: C. McInerney 0-3 (all frees); S. Crotty 0-2; M. McDonagh 0-1 (free).

KERRY: B. Kelly; P. Reidy, B. Shanahan, F. Fitzgerald; J. Lyne, P. Crowley , M. Hickey; W. Guthrie, S. Carroll; D. Casey, C. O’Shea, M.T. O’Sullivan; N. O’Shea, B.J. Walsh, P. Geaney (c). Subs: J. O’Sullivan (Carroll 30); C. Tobin (N. O’Shea 47); B.J. Keane (Geary 54).

CLARE: J. Joyce; S. Cormican , D. Ryan, D. Galle ry; L. Markham, M. Malone, D. Nagle; C. Ryan, P. Looney; D. O’Meara, M. O’Donoghue, P. McMahon; C. McInerney, S. Crotty, M. McDonagh (c). Subs: G. Whelan (O’Donoghue inj. 24); F. Hayes (O’Meara 40); J. Curtin (Nagle 57).

Referee: D. Cahill (Tipperary).

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