Quite a statement for a team who, at the start of the year, weren’t expected to put up much of a defence to the All-Ireland minor crown annexed last September. Feeding into that lack of expectation down in the Kingdom was the lack of 2014 survivors — just two, Andrew Barry and Mark O’Connor.
Yet by 3pm yesterday, Kerry had comfortably extended their stay at the summit of minor football, all of 20 points to spare over their final opponents.
Ahead by 2-8 to 0-4 at the break, a further 2-6 was added in the second-half.
The Kerry team-sheet showed 10 different scorers at the finish, including the starting front eight. Their opponents, meanwhile, were limited to two points in the second half and held scoreless for the final 19 minutes of action.
Of their starting front six, centre-forward Alan Tynan — the provider of three points — was the sole player to impact on the scoreboard.
“They really came together as a team, and out of all the crowds I have coached this was the most complete team,” said O’Connor underneath the Cusack Stand.
“Even the guys involved with them at development stage told me they had a fantastic attitude. The hunger these fellas have to represent Kerry is unbelievable.”
And it was that hunger which played a pivotal role in dismantling the Tipperary challenge within the opening 20 minutes. John Mark Foley and Mark O’Connor wasted little time in asserting their dominance around the middle, while wing-backs Jack Morgan and the hugely impressive Gavin White poured forward at every opportunity. In attack then, the scores simply flowed.
Séan O’Shea, Bryan Sweeney, Foley and Conor Geaney were on the mark inside the opening 12 minutes.
It could easily have been double that, Kerry’s wide count running in tandem with their point-scoring.
Awake to their problems at midfield, the Tipperary management withdrew full-forward Stephen Quirke and corner-forward Brian McGrath out the field in a bid to win primary possession. It didn’t have the desired effect, Mark O’Connor continuing to pull kick-out after kick-out from the Dublin sky.
On 14 minutes, midfielder Tommy Nolan had Tipperary on the board. He teed up centre-forward Alan Tynan two minutes later for their second, the Premier youngsters slowly overcoming the nerves which had stifled their opening efforts.
They would not score again in the ensuing 10 minutes though, by which juncture Kerry had sped off into the distance through an unanswered 2-3.
Corner-forward Geaney landed his second point with Bryan Sweeney registering the contest’s opening goal on 19 minutes. A Mark O’Connor delivery was broken down to O’Shea and he threaded the ball inside to the Listowel Emmets full-forward.
Brandon Barrett made it 1-6 to 0-2 and there was a terrible sense of inevitability on 23 minutes when Geaney calmly dispatched a spot-kick following Tommy Lowry’s push on the corner-forward. More frustrating for Tipperary was that the goal was born out of a cheap turnover at the other end where Nolan and Alan Tynan — easily Tipperary’s two best performers, mind — combined in squandering possession.
Two on the bounce from Tynan cut the gap to nine (2-7 to 0-4), but when captain Danny Owens kicked a poor wide approaching the break, compounded by a Geaney free right on David Gough’s long whistle, Tipperary’s cause appeared lost.
They desperately required a positive opening upon the change of ends. It never arrived. Instead, Kerry added 2-2 by the 43rd minute to hold a 4-10 to 0-6 lead. Game over.
Brandon Barrett set up a Michael Foley fisted goal on 41 minutes, Geaney notching his second thereafter. John Mark Foley provided the delivery and though Tadhg Fitzgerald hauled Michael Foley to the floor, the referee allowed play continue as the ball broke kindly to Sweeney. Unable to steer the ball home, a penalty was called for the earlier foul and Geaney again make no mistake.
This fourth goal was the product of a wayward Ross Peters kick across his own back-line, indicative almost of Tipperary’s defeatist second-half showing.
As it was, Geaney and subs Stephen O’Sullivan and James Duggan (0-2) rounded off the most comprehensive minor final win since Cork’s 1967 hammering of Laois.
C Geaney (2-4, 2-0 pen, 0-1 free); B Sweeney (1-1); M Foley (1-0); S O’Shea (0-1 free), J Duggan (0-2 each), B Ó Seanacháin, M O’Connor, JM Foley, S O’Sullivan, B Barrett (0-1 each).
A Tynan (0-3); T Nolan (0-2); J Kennedy (0-1 ’45).
B Courtney (Dr Crokes); D Brosnan (Gneeveguilla), J Foley (Ballydonoghue), T O’Sullivan (Dingle); G White (Dr Crokes), A Barry (Na Gaeil), J Morgan (Austin Stacks); M O’Connor (Dingle), JM Foley (Kilgarvan); B Ó Seanacháin (Ballydonoghue), S O’Shea (Kenmare), B Barrett (Ardfert); M Foley (Spa), B Sweeney (Listowel Emmets), C Geaney (Dingle).
S O’Sullivan (Templenoe) for Barrett (40 mins), J Duggan (John Mitchels) for M Foley (46), M Breen (Beaufort) for JM Foley (46), D O’Brien (Glenflesk) for O’Sullivan (46), Dara O Shea (Kenmare) for Brosnan (52), G O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses) for Morgan (52).
C Manton (Fethard); T Lowry (Arravale Rovers), J Skehan (Holycross Ballycahill), T Fitzgerald (Moyle Rovers); E Moloney (Drom & Inch), L Fahy (Rockwell Rovers), D Owens (Moyle Rovers); J Kennedy (Clonmel Commericals), T Nolan (Drom & Inch); A Buckley (St Patrick’s), A Tynan (Inane Rovers), C English (Fr Sheehy’s); B McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), S Quirke (Moyle Rovers), B Martin (Kilsheelan Kilcash).
R Peters (Clonmel Commercials) for English (HT), J Bergin (Drom & Inch) for Buckley (HT), M Irwin (Moyle Rovers) for Fitzgerald (44, bc), M Kehoe (Kilsheelan Kilcash) for McGrath (45), G Whelan (Ardfinnan) for Moloney (52), C Cashman (Cahir) for Martin (56).
D Gough (Meath).