New faces click for Kerry in McGrath Cup final

Kerry 3-13 Limerick 2-12 (AET): That Kerry’s new faces guided them through their first proper examination of the season should, perhaps, be read as a sign of what is to come.
New faces click for Kerry in McGrath Cup final

With Éamonn Fitzmaurice having made five changes to the side which comfortably overcame Cork last weekend, there wasn’t a single player on yesterday’s starting team north of 30. The U21 pair of Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan were retained in defence and the age profile of the team had been considerably lowered by the time referee Alan Kissane brought the second period of extra-time to a halt, with 2014 minor Barry O’Sullivan and 2015 minor pair Conor Geaney and Briain Ó Seanacháin sprung from the bench.

It was Barry O’Sullivan and Geaney who made the most telling contributions in front of 2,010 spectators, both players raising a green flag during extra-time. The latter was a second-half replacement for the injured James O’Donoghue – Fitzmaurice assured us afterwards that the foot injury sustained by the 2014 footballer of the year wasn’t serious – and was immediately called upon to stand over a 68th-minute free with the sides deadlocked at 1-10 apiece.

Limerick, 1-6 to 0-4 in arrears at the break, had fallen six behind earlier in the half, but 1-3 without reply, which included Seamus O’Carroll’s well-taken 53rd-minute goal, had brought the home outfit back from the dead during a hugely entertaining second period.

O’Carroll kicked successive wides before Geaney held his nerve to sneak the visitors back in front two minutes from time and while David Ward subsequently swelled Limerick’s wide tally, extra-time was secured when Treaty corner-back Sean O’Dea split the posts three minutes into stoppages.

Barry O’Sullivan had the ball in the Limerick net just 20 seconds into the first period of extra-time after possession had squirmed away from Barry John Keane’s grasp. Limerick, mind, didn’t hang about in restoring parity; Iain Corbett dispatching a 72nd-minute penalty following Shane Enright’s foul on the lively Dany Neville.

Points from David Moran - the midfielder supplied the opening goal of the contest - and Geaney (free) sandwiched a Neville minor to leave the Kingdom 2-13 to 2-12 in front at the turnaround. This final period would produce just one more score; Geaney’s 89th-minute goal from a Conor Keane delivery. Limerick’s resistance was finally broken.

“It was a serious workout,” said Fitzmaurice of the county’s first McGrath Cup success since 2013.

“It was a great positive really that everyone got a run, which is good going forward. As you can see, we are still rusty and we still have plenty of work to be doing before the start of the national league.

“We played decent in the first half, but we allowed them back into it in the second-half. The positive is that on a day when we didn’t play particularly well, we still found a way to win it at the end.”

Limerick boss Billy Lee was aware of the implications of their performance, even if the result had gone against them.

“It raises the bar for us. The way the public will look at it is that we competed against Kerry and took them to extra-time so more will be expected of us. We’ve got to embrace that,” he said.

“We got 80 minutes against Kerry and we were competitive. One would hope that would improve us. But as I’ve just said to the boys, we have to keep our feet firmly on the ground. This performance doesn’t guarantee us any points in Division 4.”

Scorers for Kerry:

C Geaney (1-2, 0-2 frees); D Moran (1-1); J O’Donoghue (0-4, 0-3 frees); Barry O’Sullivan (1-0); BJ Keane (0-2 frees), J Lyne (0-2 each); M Geaney, P Murphy (0-1 each).

Scorers for Limerick:

I Corbett (1-2, 1-0 pen); S O’Carroll (1-1); D Neville (0-3); J Lee (0-2, 0-1 free); S O’Dea, D Treacy, S McSweeney (0-1 free), G Collins (0-1 each).

KERRY:

B Kealy; S Enright, J Foley, K Young; P Murphy, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; D Moran, J Barry; J Lyne, J Savage, M Geaney; BJ Keane, P Geaney, J O’Donoghue.

Subs:

G Crowley for Murphy (29 mins, inj); Brendan O’Sullivan for Savage (44); Barry O’Sullivan for J Barry (44); B Ó Seanacháin for M Geaney (44); D Daly for Crowley (59, inj); C Geaney for O’Donoghue (64, inj); C Keane for P Geaney (78); K McCarthy for BJ Keane (79); A Spillane for T O’Sullivan (82).

LIMERICK:

D O’Sullivan; D Daly, J McCarthy, S O’Dea; P White, I Corbett, P Hannon; D Treacy, B Fanning; P Nash, S O’Carroll, D Neville; S McSweeney, G Collins, B Donovan.

Subs:

J Lee for McSweeney (47); G Noonan for Nash (48); D Ward for Daly (50); C Fahy for Hannon (60); J Naughton for O’Carroll (68); J Bridgeman for White (70); C Sheehan for Collins (75); P Quinn for Fanning (81); K Ryan for Treacy (85).

Referee:

A Kissane (Waterford).

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