ALL of a sudden, things are looking up for Kerry. They began the evening seeking the two points that might spirit them to Division One safety and finished it with manager Jack O’Connor musing aloud whether the All-Ireland champions might even finagle their way into a League final.
“Looking at the table now, there’s a realistic chance we could make a league final if we were to win next weekend in Salthill. Galway are going to be a tough nut above there, especially after a great result in Armagh on Saturday. But there is a chance.”
With regard to their continuing top table membership, Kerry will at least take comfort from the three point win over Davy Burke’s Roscommon, who have now lost three straight. There was early zip from Kerry as the impressive Tony Brosnan arrowed in the assist of the night to David Clifford for the bullet fourth minute goal that kept the Roscommon at arm’s length throughout.
The All-Ireland champions sporadically looked back to their freewheeling best, but their manager called it accurately afterwards when he described the performance as “patchy”.
“We were determined to hit the ground running, we looked sharp early on but then kicked away a few foolish balls in the first quarter. Roscommon are a decent team, very fit, physical, and they were never going to die. It might have been a bit hairy there in the last five minutes, but overall we deserved it.”
On the plus side for Kerry, man of the match Gavin White appeared in uniform for the first time since last July’s All-Ireland final and produced a killer ball for what could have been a second Kerry goal inside five minutes. Donal O’Sullivan made do with the fisted point.
White looked like he’d never been away. Diarmuid O’Connor and Paul Geaney got competitive minutes into their legs but intriguingly, Tony Brosnan’s first half showing was both sharp and inventive, rekindling the debate whether he is a starter or finisher. Or as Mikel Arteta calls the now, impacters.
“I thought Tony Brosnan was very exciting tonight. He has a pile of talent, just need to keep working on belief and confidence. That will have done him a lot of good. I’ve been watching him since he was under age, and there is no doubting his talent.”
After three successive losses, Roscommon will have a half-nervous peep over their shoulder but the permutations would want to be very unkind for them to find deep water.
“We went seven-nil down last week against Mayo and 1-3 to nothing this week against Kerry, so it is definitely something we need to look at. But you’d have to be happy with the resilience, how we stuck in there,” reflected Rossies manager Davy Burke..
“It’s great to see for me that we are knocking at the door. Mayo could have blown us away and we didn’t let them, same with Kerry tonight. I think we are making strides. No one is safe though, I hope to jaysus we can sort it out and move on. We need to win at the Hyde next week to get back on the winning track, not just to stay up. I don’t want to be a manager who wins the first three and then loses four in a row.”
They enjoyed a tidy second quarter in which they narrowed a seven-point gap to four, a portent of things to come.
Kerry led 1-7 to 0-5 at the break but seemed keen to shortcut their way to this win. Roscommon, meanwhile, were methodical and purposeful and chipped away at the deficit with two points from Conor Cox and another from Daire Cregg to make it a two-point game, after 42 minutes, 1-7 to 0-8.
Tony Brosnan almost provided the spark for a stuttering Kerry when he blazed through but hit the outside of the net.
Though Paudie Clifford pointed for the Kingdom, Conor Cox was keeping his former county honest with a sixth point from a tap-over free. Encouraging the visitors further was a black card for Kerry’s Graham O’Sullivan, but it coincided with Kerry lifting the tempo and wrestling back the initiative.
They won the ten-minute period 0-3 to 0-1 though the Rossies camp was less than enamoured with how much actual play there was in the ten minute period.
Tom O’Sullivan clipped over his now obligatory score and Sean O’Shea made it a two-score game in the 56th minute, 1-10 to 0-9.
Killian Spillane delivered a scoring cameo, and Paudie Clifford made a decisive interception close to his own line, but the anxiety for Kerry wasn’t quite done. Tadgh Morley was black-carded, and his colleague Jason Foley was fortunate not to follow him, pulling down Cian McKeown surged through in search of an injury time goal.
Donie Smith took his point, but Roscommon ran out of clock.
D Clifford (1-2, 1 free), D. O’Sullivan, T Brosnan, S O’Shea (frees) (0-2 each), T O’Sullivan, D Moynihan, P Clifford, K Spillane (0-1 each) Scorers for Roscommon: C Cox (0-6, 4 frees, 1 M), D Murtagh, D Smith (0-2 each, frees), C Murtagh, D Cregg (0-1 each).
S Ryan; G O’Sullivan, J Foley, T. O’Sullivan; P Murphy, T Morley, G White; J Barry, B O’Sullivan; D Moynihan, S O’Shea, P Clifford; T Brosnan, D Clifford, D O’Sullivan.
D O’Connor for B O’Sullivan (50); K Spillane for D O’Sullivan (55); R Murphy for Moynihan; P Warren for White (both 64); P. Geaney for Brosnan (69).
C Carroll; C Hussey, B Stack, D Murray; N Daly, E McCormack, R Dolan; T O’Rourke, D Ruane; C Murtagh, C Lennon, E Smith; B Carroll, D Murtagh, C Cox.
K Doyle for R Dolan (25), R Hughes for Lennon; B O’Carroll for D Murtagh (both 47); D Smith for C Murtagh (60); C McKeown for D Ruane (64)
D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)