After watching his team struggle for large parts of last night’s provincial semi-final second play-off victory over Limerick at Austin Stack Park, Tralee before being saved by a second-half scoring burst, O’Sullivan insisted that Kerry must improve ahead of next month’s semi-final against Clare.
“We won’t beat Clare on that performance tonight. That’s the reality of it. We need to up our game and get serious. There was a lot of showboating by some of the players. We have to get more honest and play simple football. If we do that then we will do well. We are getting there,” O’Sullivan said.
A first-half Gerald O’Sullivan goal helped Kerry lead 1-4 to 0-4 at half-time but the home side lacked any fluency, while Limerick, despite not scoring for 20 minutes, were well within range of causing a major shock.
Points from impressive midfielder David Condron, Robbie Burke, Tony McCarthy and Eoin O’Donnell kept Limerick in touch as Kerry missed two goal chances and just never got into their rhythm, with the exception of full-back Gavin Crowley and midfielder Eanna Ó Conchúir.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan reflected: “I thought that Limerick played well in the first-half but we played poor and our decision making was poor. There was no bottle there.
“In the second-half the players took more responsibility, we played better and got more scores. We’re pleased with how we played in the middle of the field and everyone else seemed to up their game, and we finished strongly.”
After Kerry’s Denis Daly and Limerick’s wing-back Paul White swapped points, Kerry took over as Limerick didn’t score again, despite going all-out for a late goal but by then the Kingdom’s thoughts were already on the provincial semi-final against Clare.
Eanna Ó Conchúir’s penalty midway through the second-half, after the effective Conor Keane was fouled pushed Kerry 2-5 to 0-5 ahead.
Gaining confidence, Kerry points flowed from Kieran Murphy (45), Greg Horan, Cillian Fitzgerald and Jack Savage as the home side took complete control (2-9 to 0-5), helped by their new-found midfield dominance.
After Limerick’s Robbie Burke hit the post and Kerry keeper Gavin Curran made a smart save from close-range, Kerry rounded off proceedings with a late goal through sub Gavin O’Shea, son of former Kerry senior boss Pat O’Shea.
But after three games in 11 days — a first round loss to Tipperary was followed by victory over Waterford last week — Kerry need to improve, and fast, if they want to be considered serious contenders for the provincial crown.
Scorers for Kerry: G O’Sullivan, G O’Shea, E Ó Conchúir (1-0 pen) 1-0 each, N Sheehy (1f), J Savage (1f) 0-2 each, C Keane, D Daly, G Horan, C Fitzgerald, K Murphy (45) 0-1 each.
Limerick: T McCarthy, E O’Donnell, R Burke, D Condron, P White 0-1 each.
KERRY: G Curran; C Ó Luing, G Crowley, S O’Connor; B Crowley, R Murphy, G Horan; E Ó Conchúir, K Murphy; G O’Sullivan, J Savage, C Fitzgerald; N Sheehy, D Daly, C Keane.
Subs: G O’Shea for N Sheehy (41); A Barry for C Keane (54); D Collins for C Ó Luing (58); D Foran for D Daly (60); E Doyle for K Murphy (60).
LIMERICK: J O’Meara; D Greaney, M O’Connor, K Meade; P White, S Cahill, S Barrett; D Condron, R Burke; E O’Donnell, D Daly, T McCarthy; D Stapleton, D O’Donovan, J Breen.
Subs: J Frawley for T McCarthy (41); R McKenna for D Daly (44); D Jones for D Greaney (48); C O’Shea for D O’Donovan (50).
Referee: Michael Rock (Clare).