McGrath Cup - Clare 0-12 Kerry 0-9: Paul Galvin will not be returning to the Kerry football set-up for the season ahead, manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice confirmed yesterday evening.
The 36-year-old, who came out of retirement last March and was introduced as a second-half sub in the All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, is the sole departure from the Kingdom panel — which will be captained by Bryan Sheehan for 2016.
Fitzmaurice, speaking after the three-point defeat at home to Clare in their first competitive outing of the year, confirmed Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O’Mahony (both aged 35) would again be part of the group in 2016. “Paul won’t be back. He is finished up,” Fitzmaurice said. “He got married, is moving back to Dublin. Other than that, everyone else will be back.”
The Kerry boss insisted that the squad’s January plans had not been thrown awry by yesterday’s exit from the McGrath Cup and said their focus remains on the opening two rounds of the national league, beginning with a trip to Croke Park on January 30.
“We are starting Tuesday night and have three weeks to prepare for the Dublin and Roscommon games. To a man, all of us are really looking forward to getting stuck into it again.”
On the injuries front, Colm Cooper, who underwent minor shoulder surgery before Christmas, is expected to return to full training in the next fortnight. Fitzmaurice forecast March returns for Kieran O’Leary (Achilles tendon), Anthony Maher (hip), Paul and Mikey Geaney (back), while James O’Donoghue (shoulder) should be back in the frame come mid-April.
“If we can advance to the knockout stages of the league, James is a possibility for that. Colm will be the first back in the next week or two. He just needs to get up to speed with regard to contact.
“We won’t be using everyone for the Dublin and Roscommon games. We will gauge where everyone is at when we get back training. While we will be getting fellas back training, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to be using fellas for every league game.”
With the majority of last year’s squad not long in the door from the team holiday to Florida, the Kerry management fielded a hugely experimental side for this fixture. And while Legion pair Jamie O’Sullivan and Pádraig O’Connor, along with Gavin O’Grady and Jeff O’Donoghue, played their part in moving the home side 0-7 to 0-3 clear by the break; Kerry would add but two more points to their tally in the second period, both from the placed ball, and the first of which arrived after a 22- minute barren spell.
Clare, having not scored since the 11th minute when they pushed 0-3 to 0-1 clear, kicked five on the bounce through sub David Tubridy (0-2), Eoin Cleary, Keelan Sexton, and Sean Collins to move 0-8 to 0-7 to the good on 55 minutes.
The visitors were rampant and were it not for six second-half wides, the gap would have been far bigger than the three-point margin that separated the sides at the finish.
Jeff O’Donoghue landed Kerry’s first score of the second half on 57 minutes to square proceedings, but Clare, with a much stronger bench to pull from, finished far stronger and sealed their progression to a first McGrath Cup final since 2011 with points from Cleary, Cathal O’Connor, and Tubridy.
Fitzmaurice concluded: “Players could have come into this with a negative attitude saying something like, ‘I am getting a phone call now because the rest of them are in Florida’. If you looked at it from that view, it mightn’t have worked out well for us.
“The fact that every one of them came in positive and saw it as a chance to stake a claim for a place in the panel, I was very impressed with that.
“For a bunch that would never have played together before, they put in a great performance. Obviously, the result went against us but it wasn’t really about that. Fellas had a cut off it and lads put up their hand, which is great.”
Scorers for Clare:
E Cleary (0-4, 0-1 free); D Tubridy (0-3, 0-1 free); C O’Connor (0-2, 0-1 ’45); K Sexton, S Collins, M O’Leary (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kerry:
G O’Grady (0-3, 0-3 frees); J O’Sullivan (0-3, 0-2 frees); J O’Donoghue (0-2, 0-1 free); Pádraig O’Connor (0-1 each).
J Hayes; M Malone, Gordon Kelly, E Ralph; P Lillis, J Malone, C O’Dea; C O’Connor, G Brennan; S Collins, E Coughlan, T Downes; E Cleary, K Malone, K Sexton.
D Tubridy for Downes (HT), C O’Halloran for M Malone (HT), D Burke for Coughlan (40 mins, inj), Graham Kelly for Ralph (51), M O’Leary for K Malone (53), S Haugh for Sexton (62).
S Murphy; B Ó Beaglaoich, G Hartnett, P O’Sullivan; Pádraig O’Connor, D O’Sullivan, T O’Sullivan; B O’Sullivan, W Guthrie; Philip O’Connor, J O’Sullivan, S O’Callaghan; P Joy, G O’Grady, J O’Donoghue.
S Keane for Guthrie (44 mins), D O’Brien for Joy (48), M Foley for T O’Sullivan (52), K Crowley for J O’Sullivan (52), T O’Sullivan for Crowley (62, bc), J O’Sullivan for O’Callaghan (64).
M Collins (Cork).
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