As the clock whittled down in the dying minutes of normal time, Kieran Donaghy suddenly stopped with ball in hand short of the halfway line in front of the Páirc Esler stand.
After what seemed like an eternity and with no opposing player attempting to tackle, he turned his back to the Down goal and eventually hand-passed the ball to a team-mate.
The home crowd were incensed with what they interpreted as an act of showmanship by the former Footballer of the Year.
It wasn’t that but such was the ease with which Kerry played keep-ball at the end of this game that Donaghy could afford to take his time.
Yes, for what is believed to be a first ever win in Down, it was pretty nonchalant stuff but Kerry were never in any trouble of not breaking that duck. Down will rue their seven first-half wides when they had the wind but Kerry’s performance was an accomplished one and light years away from what transpired in Tralee last month.
With Barry John Keane taking full advantage of a start at the expense of Darran O’Sullivan, injured in training on Thursday, and Declan O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan pulling the strings, Kerry looked comfortable throughout. Here, there was no hint of complacency as there was against Armagh. Donaghy’s switch to half-forward line will need more time but the young breed, from Keane to Peter Crowley, didn’t do their causes any harm.
Admitting his “fellas dropped their guard a small bit against Armagh”, Jack O’Connor was happy with the response, which was characterised by a zeal in restricting Down in possession.
“We weren’t happy with the way we played against Armagh, we were very disappointed so above everything else we wanted to put in a performance, up our attitude and our work-rate and I think we achieved that,” he said.
Kerry led 0-5 to 0-3 at the break with three from Keane and extended their lead to five by the 50th minute, when O’Sullivan pointed their fourth score in the space of three minutes.
A brace from Mark Poland, one from play and a free, brought the margin down to three but Down didn’t score for the final 20 minutes.
The last point of the game went to Keane, his fourth of the day. Like he did after the Dublin game, O’Connor praised the Kerins O’Rahillys man and his fellow greener colleagues.
“I’m very happy with the young fellas,” he said. “Barry John Keane wasn’t even meant to start the game but came out of it with four great scores, including three into the wind in the first half.
“We used five subs and we still have a fair share of fellas to come back — Tomás [Ó Sé], Darran O’Sullivan, Donncha Walsh, Kieran O’Leary, so we’re hoping by the end of the league we’ll have a right strong panel.”
O’Connor declined to mention Tom O’Sullivan in that group — “Tom is taking an extended break. It might keep extending, I’m not quite sure,” he revealed.
The most remarkable incident of the game befell Down when referee Damien Brazil incorrectly sent off Conor Laverty for a second yellow card when it was only his first suchoffence. With the player and his management remonstrating to linesman Derek Fahey and the fourth official, Brazil eventually realised his error of judgement and allowed Laverty to play on.
Down though, did have a man sent to the line for two definite yellow card offences in the 63rd minute when Conor Garvey was dismissed.
Down boss McCartan spent almost 40 minutes on the pitch with his management team afterwards. He’d plenty to think about it.
As he said: “I wouldn’t be critical of too many of the performances of the Down players. I’d be happy with them. Division 1 is a cruel place. There is nobody going to hand out points.
“We knew this was the end of the table we were most likely going to be looking at. Everyone is scrapping for it.”
Scorers for Down: M Poland 0-4 (2f), D Gordon 0-2, D Hughes, A McConville (1f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan 0-6 (4f, 1 45), BJ Keane 0-4, D O’Sullivan 0-3, P Curtin 0-1.
Subs for Down: G McCartan for Costello (33); A Rogers for Turley and E McCartan for Maginn (both 51); A Carr for McConville (60); K McKernan for King (62).
Subs for Kerry: D O’Callaghan for Curtin, E Brosnan for O’Mahony (both 58); M Geaney for O’Donoghue (69); S Scanlon for Maher, J Lyne for McGuire (both 72).
Referee: Damien Brazil (Offaly).
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