“Look, it was very much a Jekyll and Hyde performance. There was some good passages of play, but overall very mixed. The attitude was better than last weekend. We were trying to do the right things, it wasn’t coming off at times but we are going in the right direction.”
Paul Galvin entered the fray at centre-back in the 58th minute, Fitzmaurice admitted he is contemplating an extended run for his fellow Finuge man in the position.
“It is something we are considering, but we are considering a lot of things. Mikey Geaney started at wing-back and then came back in at his more normal position of wing-forward, while Jonathan Lyne is a more natural wing-back playing wing-forward.”
Next up: Cork. Fitzmaurice is wary of the Rebels, as he notes a mirror image of Kerry’s situation last year.
“They are under new management, like us last year, and will be up for the McGrath Cup, like we were last year. There are players there who were on the panel when Conor Counihan was manager and they are only bursting for road, mad for action. They have a lot of fellas in the 22-25 [age] bracket who haven’t got a chance to impress and they’ll get that chance next weekend.”
A stop-start Kerry display saw the hosts lead by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break, only Bryan Sheehan, Donnchadh Walsh and Alan Fitzgerald managing to notch points from play. Sheehan ended the game with 0-9, seven from placed balls.
Stephen O’Brien struck the game’s first goal in the sixth minute after good interplay between Walsh and Fitzgerald sliced open CIT.
The goal put Kerry into a lead that they would not relinquish.
CIT performed well in the first half. Pa Kilkenny shadowed Barry John Keane well in the corner; Brendan O’Sullivan was prominent at midfield, while Donal Óg Hodnett and, especially, Cathal Vaughan (who kicked 0-8, two from play) impressed in the forward line.
The Kingdom slowly imposed themselves and by the 17th minute opened up a 1-4 to 0-3 lead with three Sheehan scores (one from play). Sixty seconds later Donnchadh Walsh missed a great goal chance, the Kerry captain slipping at the crucial moment. Three points from Vaughan (one from play) kept CIT in touch but they will rue a missed goal chance in the 30th minute when Kerry goalkeeper first denied Darragh Treacy before Mark Griffin blocked Hodnett’s effort from the rebound.
In the second 35 minutes Sheehan continued to be Kerry’s main source of scoring power, he accounted for 0-4 of Kerry’s second half tally of 1-5. Two early second-half frees from him countered efforts from Treacy and Vaughan for CIT.
Kerry — almost sensing an unnecessary dog-fight — then struck for the game’s all-important second goal in the 49th minute. A quick free found Barry John Keane alone in the square and he duly blasted to the net.
The game petered out in the final quarter with a raft of substitutions and a litany of frees breaking up the flow of the game.
Nine minutes from time Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien rounded the CIT goalkeeper Andrew O’Donoghue only to see his low shot from a narrow angle rebound off the butt of the post to safety. Barry John Keane hit another point, again after being found in space with a quick free, to put Kerry 2-12 to 0-10 ahead.
The game was over as a contest at this stage but CIT battled on and late points from James Walsh, Vaughan and wing-back Rory O’Sullivan eroded the Kingdom’s winning margin to five.
Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan 0-9 (7f), BJ Keane 1-1, S O’Brien 1-0, A Fitzgerald, D Walsh 0-1.
Scorers for Cork IT: C Vaughan 0-8 (0-6f), J Walsh 0-2, S McCarthy, D Treacy, R O’Sullivan 0-1.
KERRY: B Kealy; P Murphy, M Griffin, S Enright; M Geaney, J Sherwood, B Maguire; A Maher, D Moran; J Lyne, B Sheehan, D Walsh; BJ Keane, A Fitzgerald, S O’Brien.
Subs: P Crowley for Geaney (ht), S O’Callaghan for Fitzgerald (injured, 43), M Reen for Walsh (54), P Galvin for McGuire, B Shanahan for Maher (58), M Geaney for Lyne (65).
CORK IT: A O’Donoghue; P Kilkenny, E Byrne, TJ Brosnan; R O’Sullivan, P Daly, J Collins; B O’Sullivan, K O’Connor; S Finn, S McCarthy, D Treacy; C Vaughan, D Óg Hodnett, J Walsh.
Subs: T Hegarty for O’Connor (ht), J Corkery for Finn (38), S Cahill for Collins (54), G Fannin for Brosnan (62), C O’Sullivan for B O’Sullivan (65), L Prendergast for Daly (68).
Referee: R Moloney (Limerick).