Kerry 2-16 Clare 0-11: This game didn’t need Tipperary’s heroics to put it in the shade. It had consigned itself to the shadows long before Liam Kearns’ men were working their magic, barely raising the curtain for the history that was to follow in Croke Park.
Kerry move on having taken care of business without letting us in on so much of a hint about their true position. By the time August 28 comes around, it will be 18 weeks since they were last asked serious questions in a competitive game.
Their three-game winning run where their average margin of comfort has been 11 points has nevertheless seen them fly into the semi-finals very much under the radar. We can hazard a guess and say the team Éamonn Fitzmaurice fields against Dublin would be different to the one he would start should Donegal once more defy the odds against Jim Gavin’s defending champions.
But for now Kerry pose us more questions than delivering answers.
Yesterday, they kept Clare to just four points from play but when Colm Collins’ side were more determined to find the net from a long way out that statistic skews the reality of the affair. There were flashes of brilliance but then Kerry didn’t seem so motivated to take a knife to Clare and fillet them.
“I suppose from our point of view it was always going to be a tricky game,” stated Fitzmaurice. “We needed to come up and we needed to have a professional attitude. Get in get the job done and head down for Kerry again. It is that. There were aspects of our performance that were very good, there were other aspects that we were a bit off and were a bit rusty. It’s a game under our belt. We’ve plenty to work on over the next couple of weeks.”
In truth, no margin of victory, no strength of performance would have convinced anyone about Kerry’s All-Ireland winning credentials yesterday. If semi-finals are to be won then Kerry have given new meaning to quarter-finals: they are there to be sauntered. Since losing to Donegal in 2012’s last eight game, they have coasted into the last four to the tune of 51 points.
They had this latest jaunt sewn up as early as the sixth minute of the second-half when Darran O’Sullivan’s emphatic finish past Joe Hayes put Kerry nine points up. They led 1-8 to 0-4 at the break, their goal lacking no small element of fortune as Stephen O’Brien’s ball into Paul Murphy landed on his heel and deflected into the path of a welcoming Donnchadh Walsh.
Kerry only looked troubled in the opening quarter when there was more impetus to their opponents’ play although Hayes had to be on his toes to prevent a Shane Enright shot from escaping him in the eighth minute. Clare were back level in the 17th but after Walsh’s goal (21m), Kerry took over.
Clare did have goal chances in the second half, the best of them falling to Jamie Malone when Brian Kelly batted a ball his way in the 54th minute. Malone’s shot, although touched by Kelly, was making its way to the net before Aidan O’Mahony swept it off the line. Malone also rattled the crossbar late on.
Neither wouldn’t have changed the course of the game such was the ease at which Kerry were playing. Indeed, there was too much ease as they racked up 10 second- half wides. “It was high,” said Fitzmaurice. “Normally, we’re good in that regard. Normally we’re a bit more clinical. Again, it’s something we have to tidy up between now and four week’s time.”
At the other end, at least Kerry were keeping Clare away from proper sight at their posts. “The concession rate was reduced,” remarked the Kerry manager. “We rode our luck a bit a couple of times. My impression was the defence played well. I thought early on in the game and Clare were coming at us a bit, the lads at the back absorbed that well and they did well at the back.”
Clare will look back with regret on not giving a better account of themselves after an otherwise fine July where they demonstrated they were worth their place here. Collins chose to accept it as a day of schooling. “I think it magnifies the work we need to do and level you need to play at. At club football in Clare, you can get away with a lot of stuff you can’t get away with out there and the level of football that is being played out there, the level of tackling, the strategies, they are all education and unfortunately you have to pay for education and we paid for it out there today.”
Scorers for Kerry:
D. O’Sullivan (1-2); J. O’Donoghue (0-5, 3 frees); D. Walsh (1-1); P. Geaney (1 free), B.J. Keane (0-3 each); B. Sheehan (free), S. O’Brien (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare:
D. Tubridy (2 frees, 1 45), E. Cleary (frees) (0-4 each); P. Lillis, J. Malone, P. Burke (0-1 each).
B. Kelly; S. Enright, M. Griffin, B. Ó Beaglaoich; K. Young, T. Morley, P. Crowley; K. Donaghy, D. Moran; D. Walsh, D. O’Sullivan, P. Murphy; J. O’Donoghue, P. Geaney, S. O’Brien.
Subs for Kerry:
A. O’Mahony for T. Morley (black), B.J. Keane for D. Walsh (both 45); A. Maher for K. Donaghy (47); B. Sheehan for D. Moran, M. Ó Sé for P. Crowley (both 53); T. Brosnan for J. O’Donoghue (66).
J. Hayes; M. McMahon, K. Harnett, S. Hickey; D. Ryan, G. Kelly, C. O’Dea; G. Brennan, C. O’Connor; S. Collins, J. Malone, P. Collins; P. Lillis, D. Tubridy, E. Cleary.
Subs for Clare:
K. Sexton for C. O’Dea (h-t); S. McGrath for D. Tubridy (47); E. Coughlan for C. O’Connor (50); P. Burke for S. Hickey (58); S. Malone for G. Kelly (64).
M. Deegan (Laois).
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