Goals are great but they flattered a Munster final whose foot seemed stuck on the clutch. It wasn’t until after 15 minutes of the second half that the result was confirmed and continued Kerry’s record of having reached every All-Ireland quarter-final.
Moral victories provide no sustenance for an ambitious, developing county like Tipperary and a 10-point loss leaves them with relatively little to bring into their fourth round qualifier in three weeks’ time.
However, they know they at least nagged Kerry here. In midfield, they had the better of the exchanges before Éamonn Fitzmaurice brought in reinforcements.
They also took the All- Ireland runners-up for two goals and could have had another but for Brian Kelly making an acrobatic save to deny Michael Quinlivan.
But the statistics of the game read like a rap sheet for Tipperary. No point from play until the 53rd minute, they had to rely primarily on Kevin O’Halloran’s free-taking. In the second half, they looked preoccupied with scoring goals when putting the ball over the bar may have boosted their flagging confidence.
For Kerry, historically this will go down as a fourth consecutive Munster title under Fitzmaurice but that dominance pales in comparison with present day matters and the truth is that it brings Croke Park into focus, much earlier than last year when they had to wait another fortnight before beating Cork.
Their defence en masse coped well with Tipperary although there were times when the high ball into Quinlivan caused too much commotion. Paul Murphy put in a most complete first half and although his contribution dimmed after the interval his early play would be most pleasing to the home support in the 21,512 crowd.
Ditto the sharpness of Paul Geaney in taking his two goals in the fashion he did and the eagerness of James O’Donoghue coming off the bench. With the prospect of a fully-fit O’Donoghue working in tandem with Geaney in Croke Park, the concern about Colm Cooper’s collarbone injury will be slightly offset.
Kerry didn’t need to deploy many black arts here, which is usually a major indicator of the respect they show to teams. The naivety in Tipperary’s play was evident in the 41st minute when Jimmy Feehan, the visitors’ goal-scorer after 35 seconds, was heaved out of play by Donnchadh Walsh but was then yellow carded for reacting angrily to the challenge and lost the free as a result.
Tipperary were turned over too easy at times too. Murphy thieved George Hannigan of a ball in the 31st minute that led to a Bryan Sheehan point shortly afterwards. While Geaney turned quite brilliantly to be fed by a David Moran through ball for his goal, the shadowing of him was non-existent.
In all, it was a day of learning for Tipperary as it was in a way for Fitzmaurice even if it wasn’t about so much about the opposition. “They brought what we thought they would bring,” he stated with no hint of arrogance. “They were good running with the ball, good forwards and good individual players. They didn’t overly surprise us with anything they did — they beat Cork on merit. They have a good bit about them, and I don’t think they are finished yet.”
Kerry led 2-7 to 1-4 at half-time having scored two goals that couldn’t have been more different in the build-up. Murphy’s finish in the 18th minute after a slew of rapid hand-passes put Kerry ahead for the first time following Feehan’s first-minute strike. Geaney’s first, nine minutes later, was the result of Aidan O’Mahony kicking to the right wing for Mikey Geaney who then found his cousin with another booted pass. Kelly was level to Quinlivan’s shot in the 44th minute at a point of the game where Kerry had extended their lead by another point before Geaney struck 1-1 in three minutes. Robbie Kiely brought the margin down to single digits when he finished to the net after some good work by Quinlivan.
O’Halloran followed up with Tipperary’s first point from play but then Josh Keane was black carded and their challenge wilted. The next six scores were Kerry’s, four of them from O’Donoghue as they saw out the game with ease.
“We struggled at times,” accepted Liam Kearns, “but the big thing, the gulf between us, was the benches. They were rolling out David Moran and James O’Donoghue; when I saw James O’Donoghue coming on, I said, ‘That’s great now’, 10 minutes to go and fellas are getting tired at the back and he snipes a few scores.”
P. Geaney (2-3); P. Murphy (1-1); B. Sheehan (frees), J. O’Donoghue (0-3 frees) (0-4 each); K. Young, D. O’Sullivan, S. O’Brien, M. Geaney, B.J. Keane (0-1 each).
K. O’Halloran (0-6, 4 frees, 1 45); J. Feehan, R. Kiely (1-0 each); M. Quinlivan (0-3, 2 frees); A. Moloney (0-1).
B. Kelly; S. Enright, M. Griffin, B. Ó Beaglaoich; T. Morley, K. Young, A. O’Mahony; K. Donaghy, B. Sheehan (c); D. Walsh, C. Cooper, P. Murphy; D. O’Sullivan, P. Geaney, S. O’Brien.
M. Geaney for C. Cooper (inj, 21); D. Moran for K. Donaghy, J. Lyne for B Ó Beaglaoich (both 46); B.J. Keane for D. O’Sullivan (49); J. O’Donoghue for S. O’Brien (58); A. Maher for B. Sheehan (66).
E. Comerford; C. McDonald, C. O’Shaughnessy, A. Campbell; B. Maher, R. Kiely, J. Feehan; P. Acheson (c), G. Hannigan; J. Keane, P. Austin, B. Fox; K. O’Halloran, M. Quinlivan, C. Sweeney.
S. O’Connell for J. Keane (black, 58); A. Moloney for P. Austin (62); M. Dunne for G. Hannigan (67); S. Leahy for C. O’Shaughnessy (inj, 70+1).
D. Gough (Meath)