Plenty to do as Kingdom stumble on

Cavan 0-09 Kerry 0-15

Plenty to do as Kingdom stumble on

Not by their standards, certainly, and this was an offering that paled even further when compared to the efforts either side of this All-Ireland quarter-final with Dublin burnishing their reputation against Cork and Mayo burning Donegal’s.

The week leading up to the last eight extravaganza had seen a succession of pundits tip their hats towards the Kingdom as likely champions. It was hard then to see why and even more difficult now with the added benefit of hindsight.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice admitted as much, describing his side as the back marker among the four sides left in the chase, and few will tip them to overcome Jim Gavin’s Dublin when hostilities recommence.

It wasn’t a day entirely devoid of positives.

Kerry played some lovely fluid football at times, Colm Cooper feathered a number of sumptuous cross field balls from centre-forward, Donnchadh Walsh claimed three points and Declan O’Sullivan linked a number of moves together.

Johnny Buckley was astoundingly good in the first half and beside him was David Moran who, after a litany of injuries, was playing in his first championship match since 2011.

Moran didn’t play like a man who had lost three years and, with younger men such as Fionn Fitzgerald and Peter Crowley acquitting themselves respectably in the Big House, there were reasons for some cheer.

Some. The bad outweighed the good.

Fitzmaurice rightly criticised his side’s performance in the second half when they were outscored by seven points to four but there was enough of note in the opening sector to suggest there is considerable work to be done.

Cavan turned Kerry over three times inside the first 90 seconds but gave the ball away themselves on four occasions before the fourth minute had ended and that was, in effect, the first-half script in microcosm.

Cavan came to play a game in the All-Ireland series for the first time since 1997, backed by a support of considerable volume — in both senses of the word — but they gave their folk precious little to cheer.

Martin Dunne swept over the game’s first point after four minutes but they wouldn’t score again for 26 minutes due to an obvious case of stage fright and a tactical approach that screamed caution.

Terry Hyland utilised two sweepers in his defence but it was the lethargy with which Cavan looked to use the ball that appalled, with no overlapping runners, no movement inside and a plethora of side-to-side passes.

Only Cian Mackey seemed willing or able to inject some pace and urgency into them but it was a cry in the dark against a Kerry side that rattled off nine successive points despite their own sloppiness with the ball.

The damage would have been worse had referee Eddie Kinsella awarded Kieran Donaghy a penalty for a blatant foul after five minutes while Darran O’Sullivan saw one goalbound shot deflected away for a 45 by the same Cavan man.

Kerry really found their rhythm in a four-minute spell towards the end of that half with a patchwork quilt of lovely intricate moves and scores but their reputation for playing ’traditional’ football didn’t prevent them funnelling 14 men behind the ball either.

By half-time they led by 10 points to two and the perception was that Cavan could be handed an unmerciful hiding if only Kerry could tighten a few screws and eradicate the still regular turnovers.

Instead, they all but downed tools and abandoned their shape.

Having been so dominant in midfield, Kerry ceded control there to a Cavan side that was always going to provide a kick on the restart, so much so that Cavan enjoyed in and around 60% of possession in that latter spell.

With Mackey continuing to prod and probe and substitute Niall McDermott finally providing some support, Cavan managed to put some scores together and the gap on the scoreboard began to shrink. If slowly.

One point summed up Cavan’s newly-discovered abandon with another turnover on their own half-back line prompting a wave of six runners into Kerry territory before Mackey set up McDermott to score.

Finally, the Cavan fans had something to cheer, and boy did they roar, but their day was summed up when Eugene Keating ran up to a 45 and skewed his effort the proverbial mile wide of the right-hand post.

The sight of Martin Dunne being taken off — and reacting furiously as he walked off — moments later only emphasised their struggles, given the Cavan Gaels man had clocked 1-32 in the previous six games. Another positive for Kerry, then. They’ll need them.

Scorers for Cavan: N McDermott (0-3, two frees); E Keating (0-2 frees); C Mackey (0-1); D Givney (0-1); M Reilly (0-1); M Dunne (0-1).

Scorers for Kerry: C Cooper (0-6, five frees); D Walsh (0-3); J Buckley (0-3, one free); Declan O’Sullivan (0-1); K Donaghy (0-1); D Moran (0-1).

Cavan: A O’Mara; K Clarke, R Dunne, D O’Reilly; R Flanagan, J McLoughlin, A Clarke; T Corr, D Givney; C Mackey, F Flanagan; D McVeety; M Reilly, M Dunne, E Keating.

Subs for Cavan: N McDermott for Flanagan (35); M Argue for Corr (45); J Brady for Dunne (49); J McEnroe for Givney (58); K Tierney for Keating (69).

Kerry: B Kealy; M O Se, F Fitzgerald, S Enright; T O Se, K Young, P Crowley; D Moran, J Buckley; P Galvin, C Cooper, D Walsh; Declan O’Sullivan, K Donaghy, Darran O’Sullivan.

Subs for Kerry: P Geaney for Donaghy (49); K O’Leary for Walsh (52); P Curtin for Darran O’Sullivan (60); E Brosnan for Young (62); M Geaney for Galvin (67).

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).

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