With the All-Ireland champions enjoying a team holiday in South Africa, U21 manager Darragh Ó Sé was asked to take charge at the eleventh hour, fielding a relatively inexperienced side comprising of U21 and junior players.
Ó’Sé’s U21 management team had sought the services of Tommy Walsh, but were informed the Kerins O’Rahilly’s forward was unavailable for the fixture.
The makeshift Kingdom outfit were undone by a rousing closing surge from Noel Kennelly’s IT Tralee, who although facing into a strong gale, outscored Kerry by 3-6 to 0-3 during the final 23 minutes of action.
Fitzmaurice’s All-Ireland winning squad were expected to return home this week to a McGrath Cup semi-final. Instead it is the students who will square off against UCC next Sunday.
“I don’t think this result will affect the plans of the senior management,” said Shanahan. “I imagine they will want to get a couple of sessions under their belt before they start playing competitive games.”
He added: “We put it out there that we were looking for players and word came back to us that Tommy Walsh was unavailable. I presume Eamonn wants him first hand to himself for training before he met someone like us.”
Five unanswered points from Gavin O’Grady (free), Paul Kennelly, Liam Carey, Killian Spillane (free) and Gary Sayers moved Kerry 0-13 to 1-6 clear early at the change of ends and with the elements in support, general consensus was that Kerry would close out the win with minimum fuss.
A Conor Keane converted penalty on 47 minutes for a foul on substitute Padraig O’Shea kick-started IT Tralee’s resurgence and O’Shea raised their third green flag when punching Keane’s delivery to the net.
Gary Sayers posted Kerry’s response, an effort quickly cancelled out by two points from Legion’s Keane. Indeed, the impressive centre-forward ensured he would have a hand in all four IT Tralee goals when initiating the passage of play that finished with Peter Nash firing home from close range on 67 minutes.
Victorious boss Noel Kennelly was fulsome in his praise of Keane.
“Conor and Jack Savage are two lads who have massive potential. They will play for Kerry, I am sure of that. We had three goal chances in the first half and we only took one of them. I thought we mightn’t have done enough at the break. We got the penalty at the right time. It gave our guys more confidence and they pushed on, which was great.
“Competitive games are the way to go and it is great now that we can go into the next round against UCC. They are at the level we want to be.”
Scorers for IT Tralee: C Keane (2-5, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); P O’Shea (1-1); P Nash (1-0); J Savage (0-3, 0-1 free); C O’Connell, C Cromwell, D McElligott (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerry: G O’Grady (0-3, 0-3 frees); G Sayers, J Crean (0-1 free), P Kennelly (0-2 each); K McCarthy, C McGillicuddy, A Barry, M Burns, L Carey, K Spillane (0-1 free), T O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
IT TRALEE: S Kenny (Castlegregory); M Egan (Dr Crokes), G Crowley (Templenoe), J Lyne (Dr Crokes); D McElligott (Austin Stacks), C Horan (Glenflesk), C Cromwell (Carrick Emmets, Monaghan); A Duggan (Austin Stacks), G Bastible (John Mitchels); P Quille (St Senan’s), C Keane (Legion), C O’Connell (Austin Stacks); G O’Shea (Dr Crokes), P Nash (Kildimo/Pallaskenry, Limerick), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahillys).
Subs: P O’Shea (St Senan’s) for Quille (47 mins); S Flynn (Buttevant, Cork) for Egan (51); A Moriarty (Legion) for Savage (59); C O’Brien (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield, Clare) for O’Connell (68); J Brennan (St Molaise, Sligo) for McEligott (68).
KERRY: S Murphy (Kilcummin); S Dillon (St Senan’s), C Ó Beaglaoich (Gaeltacht), D Maher (Kilcummin); P McMahon (St Pat’s), T Morley (Templenoe), S O’Connor (John Mitchels); C McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh-Glencar), J Barry (Na Gaeil); A Barry (Brosna), J Crean (Annascaul), G Sayers (Keel); K McCarthy (Kilcummin), G O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar), T O’Sullivan (Dingle).
Subs: B Ó Beaglaoich (Gaeltacht) for Maher (22), P Kennelly (Ballydonoghue) for Crean (30), L Carey (Beaufort) for C Ó Beaglaoich (HT), K Spillane (Templenoe) for A Barry (39), M Burns (Dr Crokes) for McCarthy (51), C Coffey (Kerins O’Rahillys) for O’Connor (59).
Referee: M Collins (Cork).