Kerry finally break their league duck
Return of Maher and Declan O’Sullivan helps set up win over Down
Anthony Maher had an impressive performance on his return to the Kerry side. Photograph: Alan Betson
The smile on Eamon Fitzmaurice’s face on Saturday night may not have been as broad as that of fellow Kerry native Bryan Cooper at Cheltenham last Thursday when he rode his first winner, but this three-point win was also a first for the young Finuge clubman, and both Cooper and Fitzmaurice will be hoping to rise to the top in the years ahead.
The first brace of league points picked up in five games, against a poor Down side it must be stated, has Kerry fans dreaming of lowering Cork’s colours in Tralee next Sunday – and that could mean a trip to Tyrone for salvation, rather than sibilation!
It’s only Fitzmaurice’s first year in the job, but Kerry fans are fickle and unforgiving, so he seemed glad of the result.
“We are happy to be up and running and we are happy to have two points on the board,” he said. “We were happy with the first half; we were not too happy with the second half. We needed to win a game, somehow, some way and we did tonight.”
With Declan O’Sullivan returning to the starting set-up for the first time this season, Kerry settled.
However, their hopes suffered a major blow early in the first half when Aidan O’Mahony went off injured, to be replaced by Mark Griffin.
Buckley on form
Johnny Buckley was in terrific form for the Kingdom, accounting for 0-5 of their first-half tally.
Kerry’s other first-half scorers were Declan O’Sullivan (0-2) and wing-back Brian Maguire as they dominated the first half to lead 0-8 to 0-1 at the short whistle. Connaire Harrison was Down’s only scorer in the first half.
However, the team disappeared into their shell for periods of the second half after Donal O’Hare bagged a fortunate goal and a point for the visitors.
Fitzmaurice felt it was the desperation to get a win that caused Kerry to lose their shape. “I suppose missing the penalty was a big moment in the game as well, because if we’d got that we would have gone seven points up and we would probably have kicked for home,” he said.
Down boss James McCartan was philosophical. “When I saw the Kerry team that put out: I knew there was a message of intent there,” he said. “When we saw the full forward line, we knew they meant business.
“Look, Kerry will not be put into Division 2 without a fight and that was certainly the case tonight. In defence of our lads, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.”
KERRY: B Kealy, M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, F Fitzgerald, K Young, B Maguire (0-2), A Maher, E Brosnan, J Lyne (0-1), D Walsh, J Buckley (0-5; 0-3 free), Darran O'Sullivan, K Donaghy, Declan O’Sullivan (0-3). Subs: M Griffin for A O’Mahony (inj 14 min), P Galvin for E Brosnan (43 min), K O’Leary for D Walsh (56 min), J O’Donoghue for Declan O’Sullivan (62 min)
DOWN: B McVeigh, D McCabe, B McArdle, R Boyle, R Mallon, A Carr, K Quinn, K King, K McKernan, C Laverty, M Poland, P McComsikey, D O’Hare (1-2; 0-1 free), C Harrison, B Coulter (0-1). Subs: D O’Hagan for A Carr (22 min), D Turley for R Mallon (32 min), A McConville (0-1) for C Harrison (0-1; 45 min)
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)