The end result was a 14-point trouncing where the visitors managed only one score in the second-half, that a 49th minute point from sub Jack Kennedy. Seven of the side which featured during last August’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo were on show here and while Kearns was cognisant of their limited preparation heading into this McGrath Cup opener, no manager enjoys a 14 scores to four thumping.
“The boys gave me a rod to use on their backs and I will be using it,” he said. “You can’t hide away from it. That was a trouncing out there. We got our backsides spanked by an U21 team so perspective is perspective.”
He added: “They cleaned us out at midfield under our own kick-outs. We would pride ourselves on winning our own kick-outs, but we didn’t have any work done on it. You could see their kick-outs were well rehearsed. They’re clearly well-drilled.”
Tipperary had taken the lead when corner-forward Diarmuid Foley collected a Philip Austin through ball 10 minutes in and drilled a low effort beyond Kerry ‘keeper Shane Ryan. The Kerry U21’s, though, were noticeably sharper and replied with three on the bounce from Conor Geaney (free), Barry O’Sullivan and impressive corner-back Tom O’Sullivan to hit the front. Centre-forward Sean O’Shea was another to frustrate a sluggish looking Tipperary defence.
Kevin Fahey levelled matters at 1-1 to 0-4, but the Kingdom assumed control thereafter and hit a further 1-4 uninterrupted. Matthew O’Sullivan was responsible for their opening goal, the towering full-forward drawing the foul from Paddy Codd as Daniel O’Brien’s delivery floated into the Tipperary square. Referee Conor Lane spread his arms wide, with Cathal Bambury dispatching the penalty beyond Evan Comerford.
O’Sullivan turned provider for their two second-half majors, palming the ball on the first instance and then punching Ivan Parker’s delivery to the net two minutes from time.
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor was impressed with O’Sullivan, their overall performance and the manner in which his young charges matched their opponents in the physical stakes.
“We were just hoping to give a good account of ourselves as you just never know at this level. There is a big difference in physique and physical conditioning. We have a good bit of work done in the gym and I thought our lads stood up well.
“Rather than breaking up the U21’s and have a few of them playing with the seniors for this fixture, it was better to get them together and get value out of the game as an U21 team. It certainly suited us to stay together as we’re looking to build towards the Munster championship.”
On Matthew O’Sullivan’s contribution, he commented: “He’s big and he’s very enthusiastic. He has really improved in the last few months. We just think the modern day lends itself to, maybe, having a big man there and with the new square ball rule where you can get in once the ball is kicked. It worked today. It mightn’t work another day.”
Scorers for Kerry: M O’Sullivan (2-0); C Bambury (1-1, 1-0 pen); S O’Shea (0-3, 0-1 free 0-1 ’45); C Geaney (0-1 free), T O’Sullivan (0-2 each); B O’Sullivan, M Flaherty, C Coffey (0-1 each).
D Foley (1-0); K Fahey (0-2); J Kennedy (0-1).
S Ryan; TL O’Sullivan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; B Ó Beaglaoich, A Barry, D O’Brien; B O’Sullivan, B Ó Seanacháin; B Barrett, S O’Shea, L O’Donoghue; C Geaney, M O’Sullivan, C Bambury.
M Flaherty for L O’Donoghue (HT); B Sugrue for O’Brien (57); L Carey for Geaney (59); L Kearney for B O’Sullivan, I Parker for Bambury (both 64); C Coffey for T O’Sullivan (68)
E Comerford; C O’Shaughnessy, P Codd, R Kiely; E Moloney, J Feehan, K Fahey; L Casey, M Dunne; J Keane, L Treacy, B Fox; J Lonergan, D Foley, L Boland.
P Austin for O’Shaughnessy (7, inj); A Moloney for Dunne (29); J Kennedy for Lonergan, C Sweeney for Treacy (both HT); J Hennessy for Codd (49, inj); C Stapleton for Casey (59).
C Lane (Cork).