Kerry keep the head down, eyes forward in routine win

Kerry 2-23 Clare 0-17: Apparently Kerry finished with 13 players on the pitch. There was a rash of subs and scores in the dead minutes and someone reckoned an old biplane landed on the pitch at Fitzgerald Stadium and took off again. No, we made that last bit up, but it was hard to keep score when the rusty old Championship goes off and gets all exciting without telling us. You wouldn’t write away for it.

Our attention span had even less chance of surviving the seven minutes of additional time in Killarney when some genius in the press tribune found a radio signal from Thurles.

Cork gone. Cork back. What a comeback. Gone again.

The publicans and businesses in Killarney quietly patted their pants pockets for change and did the arithmetic for July. All the arrows went down as they mulled over the Cork loss in Semple Stadium - and to them on July 3. Tipperary will bring numbers to the Munster final, but they won’t bring Cork numbers.

The Kerry players thought they heard, then had it confirmed over the public address, they would be meeting the Premier next month. Meeting old college friends from UCC in the Munster final. Just not the ones Stephen O’Brien had imagined. Peter Acheson and Conor Sweeney. “Acheson’s a warrior,” the Kenmare man whispered.

The business of Killarney is no business of Eamonn Fitzmaurice, however. His only concern, if there was one, is the 17 points conceded to Clare in yesterday’s shoot-out in Killarney. Not that Kerry’s progress to the provincial decider was ever in peril, but too many of Clare attacking advances went a little too unimpeded for the Kerry manager. “That was a concern,” he nodded afterwards.

Podge Collins started for Clare, and Kerry tasked Brian Ó Beaglaoich with his care. The Gaeltacht 19-year-old was minding his patch but was hardly distraught when Collins walked (black card) for a thoughtless trip on Tadhg Morley after 27 minutes. Gary Brennan stepped up for the Banner as only Brennan can, proving he belongs in the best of midfield company. But further back the pitch, his defensive colleagues were getting filleted. Colm Collins played a straight six on six defence, perhaps on the basis he was chewing as much meat off this bone as he could. A grilling worth half a dozen Cusack Park training sessions.

“The thing is in Clare, you get an extra few seconds on the ball. Against Kerry in Killarney, you don’t. That’s the key difference,” Collins mused afterwards.

If his pre-match parting shot to the players was to slap Clare down early and often, Fitzmaurice gets full marks.

Within five minutes, Clare were looking to their corner and a white towel, trailing 2-1 to 0-1. But their heads weren’t long clearing even if the first goal was a goalkeeping error from a looping Colm Cooper effort for a point and the second was an own goal from Dean Ryan. Bryan Sheehan, Darran O’Sullivan, Cooper and O’Brien kept Kerry far enough in front not to be edgy, but they were never going to turn it into a turkey-shoot. Brennan had two points from play for Clare and David Tubridy (frees) and Eoin Cleary (sideline) converted set pieces. At the break, Clare trailed 2-10 to 0-9.

If the home support were hardly on their edge of their seats, the reintroduction in the second-half of Anthony Maher, Mikey Geaney and Marc Ó Sé kept them engaged. At least until Tipperary, then Cork, started going goal-crazy in Semple. Kerry supporters, despite Cork misgivings about their authenticity, retain an unhealthy anxiety about facing the Red in Killarney, and the reactions in the second-half from the covered stand indicated that their attention too had switched to Thurles.

Kerry and Clare swapped scores likes a basketball game, and with 15 minutes remaining, Kerry led 2-17 to 0-14.

Fitzmaurice emptied the bench in the last quarter, and perhaps there is legitimacy in that when interrogating Kerry’s shoddy defensive work towards the finish. Mikey Geaney and Killian Young were black carded by referee Fergal Kelly, and by the close of business David Tubridy had registered his seventh point. Or so someone told us wards.....

Scorers for Kerry:

S O’Brien (1-5), P Geaney (0-5, 1 free), C Cooper (1-3, 1 free), B J Keane, D.O’Sullivan, B Sheehan (frees) (0-2 each), D Moran, A Maher, P Murphy, K Young (0-1 each).

Scorers for Clare:

D Tubridy (0-7, 4 frees, 2 45s), E Cleary (1 free), P Lillis (0-3 each), G Brennan (0-2), C O’Connor, P Collins 0-1 each).

KERRY:

B Kelly; S Enright, M Griffin, K Young; B Ó Beaglaoich, P Crowley, T Morley; K Donaghy, B Sheehan; P Murphy, C Cooper, D Walsh; Darran O’Sullivan, P. Geaney, S O’Brien.

Subs:

M Ó Sé or Morley (45); D Moran for Sheehan (47); J Lyne for Ó Beaglaoich (50); Barry J Keane for O’Sullivan (52); M Geaney for Walsh (53); A Maher for Donaghy (64); M Geaney (black card, 66).

CLARE:

J Hayes; D Ryan, K Harnett, M McMahon; C O’Dea, G Kelly, S Collins; G Brennan, C O’Connor; J Malone, K Sexton, S McGrath; E Cleary, D Tubridy, P. Collins.

Subs:

P Lillis for P Collins (black card, 27); P Burke for S McGrath (45); S Hickey for S Collins (52); S Malone for C O’Dea (62); D McMahon for G Kelly (black card, 66).

Referee:

F Kelly (Longford).


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