Kerry recovered from a rusty first-half performance to blitz Down, scoring four goals in the second half of this hard-fought Allianz Hurling League Division 2A opener at Austin Stack Park.
Kerry trailed the visitors 0-11 to 0-9 at the interval and needed some inspiration if they were to turn the tide. They had been laboring against the wind in the first half and while the half-back line of Jason Diggins, Barry O’Mahony and Fionan Mackessy were doing their best, Kerry were struggling in an attack minus both Shane Conway and Podge Boyle.
Down should have made more of their early dominance as Kerry was slow to settle with only Paul Sheahan accurate from placed balls. Kerry eventually got going and points from Fionan Mackessy, Daniel Collins and Shane Nolan that had the side’s level on the 15th minute but by the water break, Down led 0-5 to 0-4 with Paul Sheehan unerring from placed balls adding three more points.
Down moved 0-11 to 0-6 clear by the 35th minute thanks to Sheehan’s free taking and points from Donal Hughes, Eoghan Sands, Ronan Costello and Liam Savage.
However Kerry finished the half the stronger with points from Daniel Collins, Mikey Boyle and three from Shane Nolan in added time saw them trail only 0-11 to 0-9 at the interval Kerry manager Fintan O’Connor made the match-winning switch for the second half when he moved Shane Nolan to corner forward and Mikey Boyle moved out around midfield.
Suddenly Nolan started winning ball inside and Boyle began to pump balls in from outside along with an improving Fionan Sullivan on debut. Two rapid goals in the 41st and 42nd minutes from Maurice O’Connor after Daniel Collins robbed a Down defender and Fionan O’Sullivan after his initial effort was saved by superb Down keeper Stephen Keith proved the turning point. This changed the course of this game as Kerry assumed complete control and they added a succession of points to be out of sight by the water break 3-17 to 0-13, with Maurice O’Connor scoring his second goal.
Down never rose a gallop as Kerry used all seven subs but lost Brandon Barrett to a serious looking leg injury and Shane Nolan had the final say when he drilled home a penalty after Tim Prender was sin binned in injury for a foul on Donal Hunt.