O’Connor kick-starts Kingdom’s title defence

KERRY lodged a positive result in their Munster MFC account, with victory in last night’s quarter-final clash at Semple Stadium.

Kerry paraded seven of Coláiste na Sceilge’s All-Ireland colleges winning side over the hour, and they showed no ill-effects from last Saturday’s exertions. Eanna O’Connor maintained his prolific scoring form with a lethal 1-5 return, Niall O’Shea’s kicking was sharp alongside him in attack while Max Thiemann handled a lot of ball around the middle of the field.

Tipp’s attack struggled to pose a genuine threat as evidenced by a return of 1-1 from play, and that goal arrived deep in injury-time through Johnny McMahon.

Kerry moved well in the opening stages, with their full-forward line showcasing strong form early on. O’Connor and O’Shea landed some beautiful points, while the only non Coláiste Na Sceilge attacker close to goal also impressed as Rathmore’s Donal O’Sullivan booted three fine points. Michael Brennan was a willing worker at wing-forward and made several surging runs in the first-half, his most telling coming in the 11th minute when he played O’Connor in and the St Michael’s-Foilmore man rolled a shot to the net.

That set Kerry up nicely with a 1-3 to 0-2 lead and they maintained control on the scoreboard for the remainder of the half. They were content to add further points courtesy of O’Shea and O’Sullivan that extended their lead and their defence were a watertight unit, spearheaded by Niall Fitzgerald, Danny Wrenn and Jeremy Hoare. Tipperary relied on Liam Treacy’s freetaking and a clever score by Ross McGrath to stay afloat but there was a sense of inevitability about the conclusion when Kerry lead 1-7 to 0-4 at the interval.

The second-half rapidly turned into a lacklustre affair. Kerry were not exempt from that blame, their attacking movements falling down on occasion and they knocked a few chances wide when scores were on. Still by the end of the third quarter they had pushed further ahead at 1-10 to 0-5, and nearly goaled in the 42nd minute when midfielder Shane Carroll powered through to crack a shot that skimmed the bar before going over.

Tipperary did battle valiantly in the final stages despite Kerry having moved out of sight. Defenders Paddy Dalton and Graham Quinn helped to repel Kerry’s advances, while substitute McMahon showed he could trouble the Kerry defence when introduced to the offensive line and he converted a 52nd minute free to trim the deficit.

O’Connor replied soon after with a lovely point for Kerry and their second goal almost arrived in the 55th minute, yet substitute Ian Galvin’s low drive was brilliantly beaten away by Tipperary goalkeeper Aaron Wall.

In injury-time Tipperary finally saw some joy when Jack Lonergan was the creator for McMahon to finish into the corner of the net. Yet Kerry never looked close to being overturned and Tipperary will now have to negotiate the backdoor route to advance further.

Scorers for Kerry: E O’Connor 1-5 (0-2f), D O’Sullivan 0-3, N O’Shea 0-2, S Carroll 0-1

Tipperary: J McMahon 1-1 (0-1f), L Treacy 0-3 (0-3f), R McGrath, B Hewitt (0-1f) 0-1 each .

KERRY: P Sullivan; P O’Connor, P Galvin, N Fitzgerald; D Wrenn, J Hoare, M Finnegan; S Carroll, M Thiemann; J Sherwood, D Kelly, M Brennan; N O’Shea, E O’Connor, D O’Sullivan.

Subs: M Griffin for P O’Connor, ht; K Doona for Thiemann, 46; I Galvin for Brennan, 55; M Reen for E O’Connor, 58; K Hurley for Kelly, 60.

TIPPERARY: A Wall; E Fitzpatrick, J Ryan, P Dalton; D Dwyer, G Quinn, L Murphy; S O’Meara, E Kent; R McGrath, L Treacy, R Peters; G Mulhair, J Lonergan, B Hewitt.

Subs: J McMahon for Kent, 24; T Hill for Peters, B Lowry for Hewitt, both 45; A Matassa for Fitzpatrick, 54.

Referee: Richard Moloney (Limerick).

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