Kingdom haven't quite bottomed out just yet
Kildare 2-8 Kerry 0-12:Some league games are bonanzas. Thunderous Shangri-Las that hint at summers of bacchanalian magnificence. This was not one of those league games.This was one of the other kind – two teams trying to iron out kinks but finding new creases with every stroke. About the best you could say for it was that the outcome was in doubt right up to the very end.
Even at that, any air of mystery should have long since dissipated.
When Tomás Ó Sé sallied up for the usual Tomás Ó Sé point with 15 minutes to go, all he succeeded in doing was bringing Kerry back to within five of Kildare. It brought barely a ripple from the crowd and felt like a nothing point at the end of a dead game. Within three minutes, Johnny Doyle was lining up a penalty and the final nail was there for the hammering.
But instead, Brendan Kealy dived to his right and saved well, presaging a far more frantic closing spell than ought to have been the case. Johnny Buckley – by some distance Kerry’s best performer throughout – was press-ganged into the unlikely role of free-taker and when he curled over a couple of tricky ones back-to-back, all of a sudden they were only two behind.
Kildare saw it out in the end to make it three wins from three but nobody left the ground singing hosannas.
“We just panicked a bit after we missed the penalty,” said Kieran McGeeney afterwards. “Once we got the penalty, I thought we might have kicked on from there. Even if we had got a point from the next five or six chances we could have closed it out.
“But you have to say that Mr Buckley’s point taking from distance there today was pretty extraordinary. I thought we did well to put them under pressure but the way our structure broke down after the penalty, we were probably grasping a wee bit too much to get the scores.”
Comfiest of chairs
Dead bottom of the league with the joint-worst points difference in the country is hardly the comfiest of chairs for Eamon Fitzmaurice to be sitting in but there was succour to be found here all the same.
Kildare’s starting 15 in the summer won’t look all that significantly different to what it did yesterday but Kerry will add Darran O’Sullivan (a first-half substitute here), Declan O’Sullivan, Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin, Anthony Maher, David Moran and Bryan Sheehan to theirs. To make a game of this while short that kind of artillery provides Fitzmaurice with a starting point at least.
Kildare will wonder how they allowed him even that. Some of their shooting in the opening period was lamentably careless – they had seven wides to Kerry’s one after 20 minutes.
To their credit, they steadied down and led by 1-4 to 0-5 at the break, their goal coming from Seánie Johnston who grew sharper as the game went on and finished the day with 1-3 to his name.
Kerry were better in the second half but their shooting was even worse than Kildare’s had been, with only Buckley seeming to have his radar in any sort of working order. When Doyle shaped and shimmied to bang home a peach of a goal on 47 minutes, Kildare went 2-6 to 0-7 ahead and Kerry looked done.
Kealy kept them in it though and Jonathan Lyne and Buckley chipped away at the lead, to the point where Kildare had to survive a couple of goalmouth scares to escape the final whistle intact. Encouraging though it was, Kerry can’t really afford a fourth defeat on the bounce in Ballybofey next Sunday.
“We can’t,” agreed Fitzmaurice. “Six points would probably keep you up, but we’re on zero, Down are on zero, Mayo are on two, Donegal are on two. So there are teams down there who are going to be scrapping it out. You have three teams on full points, Dublin, Tyrone and Kildare, who are going away from the pack. I do think all the teams are going to take points off each other, so it’s going to be very competitive.
“But we do have to start getting points on the board or else it is going to be a foregone conclusion that we’re going down. We don’t want to go that direction.”
KILDARE:S Connolly; P Kelly, M Foley, H McGrillen; E Bolton (0-1), M Conway, E Doyle; M O’Flaherty, P O’Neill; B Flanagan, N Kelly (0-1), D Flynn; S Johnston (1-3), T O’Connor, J Doyle (1-2, 0-2 frees). Subs: A Smith for M O’Flaherty (45 mins); P Brophy (0-1) for N Kelly (58 mins); O Lyons for Bolton (61 mins); C McNally for Flanagan (61 mins); E O’Flaherty for Johnston (70 mins). Yellow cards: P Kelly (60 mins), Foley (64 mins). KERRY:B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne (0-2), T Ó Sé (0-1), K Young; K Donaghy, E Brosnan; M O’Donoghue, D Walsh, J Buckley (0-4, 0-2 frees); K O’Leary, J O’Donoghue (0-4, 0-3 frees), BJ Keane. Subs: D O’Sullivan for M O’Donoghue (26 mins); P Crowley (0-1) for Enright (45 mins); B Maguire for Keane (52 mins); F Fitzgerald for T Ó Sé (67 mins). Yellow cards: Lyne (6 mins), J O’Donoghue (42 mins), Donaghy (46 mins). Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).