On paper, results show that there hasn’t been a difficult question asked of this Kerry minor team.
The 2-9 Louth managed in Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final was the most change any attack have taken Kerry for in 2017 and yet, the Wee County still found themselves 10 adrift at the finish.
All four of Kerry’s championship outings have ended in a double-digit victory, while their average winning margin stands at 14 points. Moreover, Saturday was the county’s 22nd consecutive victory at minor level.
This quarter-final script read similarly to their three Munster championship games, the Kingdom carving out an unassailable lead early in the first-half.
By the end of the first quarter, the scoreboard was 1-7 to 0-1 in their favour. David Clifford (0-3, 0-1 free), Brian Friel (0-2), Dónal O’Sullivan and Donnchadh O’Sullivan all split the posts, with Donnchadh O’Sullivan, fed by Friel, registering the Kerry goal after just seven minutes.
Louth had opted for an extremely defensive approach, but this was negated by Kerry’s decision to push their spare defenders forward. It meant Louth’s restart receivers found themselves straddled by a green and gold shirt and consequently, they lost 17 of their 33 kick-outs — Kerry midfielder Barry Mahony produced a number of fine catches.
Goals from Ciaran Keenan and Eoghan Callaghan either side of half-time did bring the beaten Leinster finalists within six points of their opponents, 1-15 to 2-6, but Kerry’s response to the concession of a second green flag was to kick four unanswered points via David Clifford (0-2), Fiachra Clifford and Friel.
Far more chances, however, went unconverted as the winners’ shooting became ragged and lazy towards the finish.
Said Kerry manager Peter Keane: “We turned off [for a period] and I don’t think we can afford to do that. Two nine is a good score to kick. It is certainly not a good score to be conceding.”
D Clifford (0-9, 3 frees); B Friel (0-5, 1 free); Donnchadh O’Sullivan (1-1); Dónal O’Sullivan (0-3, 1); F Clifford (0-2); N Donohue, M Slattery (0-1 each).
C Keenan (1-3, 0-2 frees); J Gallagher (0-6, 0-4 frees); E Callaghan (1-0).
D Uosis (Dingle); S O’Leary (Kilcummin), C O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), C Gammell (Legion); M Potts (Dr Crokes), E Horan (Scartaglen), N Donohue (Firies); B Mahony (St Senan’s), D O’Connor (Na Gaeil); A Donoghue (Castleisland Desmonds), B Friel (Rathmore), F Clifford (Laune Rangers); Donnchadh O’Sullivan (Firies), D Clifford (Fossa), Dónal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan).
D Casey (Austin Stacks) for O’Leary (42); P Warren (Gneeveguilla) for Donoghue (46); R O’Neill (Na Gaeil) for Horan (50); M Slattery (Austin Stacks) for Dónal O’Sullivan (52); C O’Reilly (Austin Stacks) for Donnchadh O’Sullivan (54); M O’Leary (Renard) for Potts (56).
A McGauley (Ardee); A Connor (Newtown Blues), D McGreehan (Cooley Kickhams), D Corcoran (Geraldines); L Grey (St Patrick’s), N Browne (St Mochta’s), J O’Reilly (Cooley Kickhams); L Jackson (Ardee), C Morgan (Naomh Mairtin); G Garland (St Mochta’s), C Gillespie (Ardee), E Callaghan (Naomh Mairtin); B Mooney (Geraldines), C Keenan (Ardee), J Gallagher (John Mitchels).
C Nicholson (Dundalk Gaels) for Morgan (35 mins, bc); F Malone (Cooley Kickhams) for Gillespie, J Murphy (Naomh Mairtin) for Browne (both 46); S Hickey (Mattock Rangers) for Garland (49); K O’Neill (Glen Emmets) for Mooney (56).
M McNally (Monaghan).