“Job done,” was the Finuge man’s immediate reaction. “Of course fellas were going to be rusty, it’s only the 5th of January, but we’re up and running and have another game next weekend [against UCC] to look forward to. The longer we can stay in the McGrath Cup the better it is in terms of preparation for the league.”
In truth this was a contest only for about ten minutes. Impressive corner-forward Paul Geaney had the ball in the IT Tralee net inside the opening minute thanks to good build up play by Darran O’Sullivan. But points from wing-forwards Darren Wallace and Brendan Pott had the students back to within a point after eight minutes. That was it though, end of challenge. With Paul Geaney’s cousin Michael adding a second goal (27th minute), Paul notching his second and Kerry’s third (32, midfielder Kieran Donaghy a central figure in both), a variety of players adding points, Kerry had built a match-winning lead (3-9 to 0-4) by the break.
“We were a small bit naive,” said IT Tralee manager Wayne Quillinan, former boss of Austin Stacks. “We spoke about it all week, you couldn’t have any fear in the belly but talking to the lads, they admitted they did have a small bit of fear and it led to the basic errors that then led to their first two goals. That set the tone for the game.”
Three minutes into the second half, whatever slim hopes IT Tralee may have been harbouring were well and truly shattered with impressive full-forward Patrick Curtin scoring the fourth and final Kerry goal.
From there to the end it was a procession of Kerry scores and scorers, points flowing from all angles, the entire full-forward line of Brian Looney, Curtin and Paul Geaney again on the scoresheet, just as they’d been in the opening half (they finished with 3-12 between them).
“They were a potent line,” agreed Fitzmaurice. “We got a few good goals, probably had a few more chances and kicked some great points. You can’t ask anymore of them, they all finished well.”
The new-look full-back line also did well, the experienced Marc Ó Sé flanked by Fionn Fitzgerald and Shane Enright, but the most impressive performances in what admittedly was a very one-sided affair came from the new-look midfield pairing of stand-in captain Johnny Buckley (finished with three points) and man-of-the-match Kieran Donaghy.
Early days of course, very early days, but this was a very positive start to the new year by Kerry, a very positive start also for the new regime led by Fitzmaurice, who himself was delighted to have this one done with. “It felt fine, it is a relief to have the first game over. It’s been coming a long time — I’ve been in the job since last August, there’s been a lot of behind the scenes work in getting things ready. It’s great to be up and running now.”
Scorers for Kerry: P Geaney 2-4 (1f); P Curtin 1-5; M Geaney 1-1; J Buckley 0-3; P O’Connor 0-3 (1f); B Looney 0-3 (1 45); BJ Keane 0-2; D O’Sullivan 0-1.
Scorers for IT Tralee: A O’Donoghue 0-3 (3f); S Carroll 0-2 (1f); B Pott, D Wallace, R Deane, S Killeen, S McCarthy 0-1 each.
KERRY: B Kelly; F Fitzgerald, M Ó Sé, S Enright; J Lyne, J Sherwood, K Young; K Donaghy, J Buckley (c); M Geaney, D O’Sullivan, M O’Donoghue; B Looney, P Curtin, P Geaney.
Subs: D Culhane (Ó Sé 35); BJ Keane (O’Sullivan 35); T Ó Sé (Lyne 54); P O’Connor (P Geaney 54); A Garnett (Buckley 55).
IT Tralee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry); C Farrell (Kildare), J Scully (Wexford); S McCarthy (Kerry), G O’Grady (Cork), M Brosnan (Kerry); R Deane (Cork), D Somers (Clare); D Wallace (Kerry), I Corbett (Limerick), B Poff (Kerry); A O’Donoghue (Kerry), S Carroll (Kerry), B O’Hare (Louth).
Subs: D Cahalane (Kerry, Farrell 35); D Murphy (Kerry, Wallace 49); D Mannix (Kerry, O’Hare 49); S Killeen (Galway, Somers 56); N Curran (Wicklow, Corbett 63).
Referee: K O’Brien (Tipperary).