James O’Donoghue provides the cutting edge as Kerry march on

Inexperienced Galway left to rue a costly string of first-half wides

Kerry’s Paul Geaney is tackled by Galway’s Donal O’Neill during the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kerry’s Paul Geaney is tackled by Galway’s Donal O’Neill during the All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 11:31

Kerry 1-20 Galway 2-10

A lesson in know-how was the chief feature of this entertaining and eye-bogglingly open All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park yesterday.

Kerry once again proved that they can still kick a football without Colm Cooper in the team, moving smoothly into the semi-final after stitching 1-20 in the sunshine, only 0-2 of those scores from frees.

James O’Donoghue seems to have become even more languid and menacing in the space of a year and had an answer to every Galway attempt to nullify his threat, finishing the afternoon with 1-05.

But across the board, Kerry were able to find scores if and when they needed them, with Paul Geaney landing two terrific points on the trot in the 45th minute to take the sting out of a brilliant sequence of Galway rebellion which revolved around a goal for the tireless Michael Lundy and a point for Shane Walsh. Later, Barry John Keane stepped in from the bench to exploit the big gaps in a stretched Galway defence to keep the green and gold on the fringes of the comfort zone.

Experience and craft counted for a lot here.

Direct running

But as they travelled south, Eamonn Fitzmaurice and company probably dissected the way Galway cut through them to score two wonderful goals which kept this game alive as a contest, in particular the memorable solo effort by Thomas Flynn just before half time.

It was an odd sight to see the green and gold defence split like the Red Sea even as Galway finally cottoned on that the best way to go at Kerry was simply to go at them. Flynn’s 31st minute goal was a devastating demonstration of direct running.

With Gareth Bradshaw repeatedly rumbling forward to try and kick-start the Galway attack, Flynn took his long hand pass at halfway, shook off Declan O’Sullivan and set off on a long canter down the heart of Croke Park which had the look of a famous goal even before he finished it.

With O’Sullivan and Aidan O’Mahony chasing his long shadow, All-Ireland’s jangling in their back pockets, Flynn kept going and going, with Paul Conroy clearing the decks with a smart dummy run. Flynn’s finish from close range was flawless and it brought Galway right back into contention.

There was further joy for a Galway crowd aching for a return to the bright lights in the second half when they cut Kerry open again with the best move of the match: a low ball from Paul Conroy was collected brilliantly by Sean Armstrong and he flicked to Michael Lundy, whose running bothered Kerry all afternoon.

He ran clear at Brian Kelly and finished coolly and at 2-6 to 1-12, Galway supporters roared with real belief for the first time all afternoon. A delightful point from Shane Walsh left Galway within two points of the Kerry men with 20 minutes to go. It was where they wanted to be.

But that was as good as it got for them and maybe they will revisit a hugely tentative opening period when they discuss the reasons why they lost this.

The first half hour was easily summed up. Kerry couldn’t miss. Galway couldn’t score. Fitzmaurice didn’t blink when Kerry lost Bryan Sheehan to an injury after two minutes.

They found other ways to score. By the time Paul Geaney registered Kerry’s first wide in the 34th minute, Galway had already amassed a sumptuous ten, misfiring from every conceivable angle in Croke Park.

Half of those were decent looks, the other half were kicked under pressure as Kerry’s drifting, plundering defence closed in and isolated the maroon men and forced them to hit and hope.

Were undone

The Kerry backs were onto any meandering play like a wolf pack and too often the Galway men were undone by their own uncertainty as much as anything.

Placing Paul Murphy on Shane Walsh played a big part in neutralising Galway’s playmaker for the first half but every so often there were flashes of what might be on offer for the Connacht team if they could break the drifting Kerry press and get fliers like Danny Cummins or Michael Lundy in one-on-one situations.

For the first seven minutes, Kerry were content to absorb the maroon pressure and watched them sling over five wides. Then, they went to work.

Declan O’Sullivan remains one of the most watchable football players on the circuit.

Yesterday, he ran out in Croke Park with the most impressively strapped knees since Patrick Ewing last suited up in earnest for the Knicks.

The Dromid man conducted the Kerry attack during their most devastating period of play, clipping the fifth point of a 1-5 scoring burst that did much to deflate any hope of a raid that Galway might have nurtured.

The goal did the damage and it came from a familiar source: James O’Donoghue took possession on the turn, glanced up to get his bearings and then blew past Donal O’Neill _ who had zero covering help – and calmly fired his shot on the narrow side of Thomas Healy’s goal. It was an exhibition of cool finishing and one which the Galway forwards might have heeded: run at your men.

Gilded names

Fitzmaurice withdrew gilded names in the second period: Declan O’Sullivan, Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé all made way.

The sight confirmed that Kerry are evolving but they still clipped 1-18 from play comfortably enough to ease past the challenge of a Galway team whose best days look to be ahead of them.

Late on, they were still worrying the Kerry back line and a brilliant save by Brian Kelly on Damien Comer’s slide-shot acted like a late signal to the Galway men that there might have been more joy in the afternoon had they just attacked earlier with further abandon.

Maybe that was a lesson learned for next season. Kerry march on to face Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final.

KERRY: 1 B Kelly; 2 M O’Se, 5 P Murphy, 4 S Enright; 3 A O’Mahony, 6 C Young, 7 F Fitzgerald; 8 A Maher, 9 B Sheehan; 10 M Geaney (0-1), 11 J Buckley (0-2 one free), 12 D Walsh (0-2); 13 P Geaney (0- 4 one free), 14 D O’Sullivan (0-1), 15 J O’Donoghue (1-5). Substitutes: 19 D Moran (0-1) for B Sheehan ( 2 mins inj), 17 P Crowley for A O’Mahoney (46 mins), 18 Darran O’Sullivan for Declan O’Sullivan (52 mins), 21 BJ Keane (0-3) for J Buckley (56 mins), 20 K O’Leary (0-1) for D Walsh (59 mins), 24 M Griffin for M O’Se (66 mins).

GALWAY: 1 T Healy; 2 D O’Neill, 3 F Hanley, 4 J Moore; 5 G Bradshaw (0-2), 6 G O’Donnell, 7 P Varley; 8 F O’Curraoin, 9 T Flynn (1-0); 10 M Lundy (1-1), 14 P Conroy (0-1), 23 J O’Brien; 13 M Martin, 11 S Walsh (0-5 3 frees), 15 D Cummins. Substitutes: 22S Armstrong for D Cummins (half-time), 25 D Comer (0-1) for J O’Brien (half-time), 12 K Kelly for J Moore (48 mins inj), 24 E Hoare for M Martin (56 mins), 20 C Mulryan for P Varley (67 min).

Referee: E Kinsella

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