Kerry dig deep to deny Limerick
Kerry 1-17 Limerick 1-14: All-Ireland champions Kerry were pushed all the way by a spirited Limerick side before they eventually landed the Munster SFC title from a pulsating encounter at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney.
Kerry were forced to wait until the second half before they took the lead for the first time. But when the Kingdom kicked into gear they did it style and at one stage Limerick looked dead and buried against the rampant Kerrymen.
Record crowds at the Killarney venue witnessed a classic encounter with John Galvin and Ger Collins playing starring roles for the underdogs, who showed real belief that they could take this one, especially in the first half.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s side took full advantage of the strong breeze at their back in the first period and opened up a three point lead (0-10 to 0-07) at the break. However, the telling period in the game came when the wind was in Kerry’s favour in the second half.
Jack O’Connor’s men scored 10 points without reply to make a mockery of Limerick’s lead. By the time Colm Cooper latched onto Donncha Walsh’s pass and fired Kerry’s goal into the roof of the net 10 minutes after the restart, they turned a three point deficit into a 1-14 to 0-10 lead.
Lesser teams would have folded but Limerick’s response was equally impressive. Minutes later Limerick’s talisman Galvin intercepted a Brendan Keely pass before he hammered into the back of the net.
All of a sudden it was game on as further points from Collins, Ian Ryan reduced it to a one point game with 10 minutes left on the clock. Man-of-the-match Galvin then levelled proceedings and Limerick were back in dreamland.
With Kerry, however, there is always an air of inevitability; they simply know how to get the job done, and sure enough they set about putting this one to bed.
Cooper found his shooting boots and his point put Kerry ahead 1-15 to 1-14 before further scores from David Moran and Tomas O’Se ended the contest.
Not even a mass goal line defence against a late Limerick free was going to stop Kerry as they closed out a most entertaining encounter.
“Looking back, the first half is where we should have made more scores, we threw away too many chances,” said Galvin. “They score 1-09 without reply in the second half and that was the difference.
“I know we brought it back to level after that but they tacked on the points at the end. They are the All-Ireland champions for a reason and this is their own back yard but it’s still disappointing.”
The Limerick manager was equally disappointed but no less proud of his the effort put in by his side.
“Kerry hit a purple patch for 15 minutes in the second half and that got them right back into the game,” said O’Sullivan.
“But credit to our lads they showed great character and came back but Kerry showed that little bit of craft needed to get them over the line.
“The wind was probably the deciding factor in the end, it gave Kerry the momentum but then again we had it in the first half.
“The lads are naturally disappointed but they’ll bounce back and I’ve no doubt about it they’ll play Croke Park this year.”
The opening exchanges saw Limerick race into an early lead as Kerry had yet to settle. Points came freely and O’Sullivan’s side opened up a four point advantage.
Galvin got the ball rolling before Collins fired over three points in quick succession with the uprights seemingly as wide as the Shannon.
It was only a matter of time before Kerry responded and O’Se fisted over for the Kingdom’s opening point. Kieren Donaghy added a quick second as the game settled into its flow.
After the quick-fire opening 10 minutes Limerick had a goal disallowed when a Collins free was punched in by Anthony Maher but he was inside the square.
On the half hour mark Galvin was booked for his part in a minor scuffle in the Kerry half.
Minutes before the break Sean Buckley worked a fine move before flicking over to O’Se, who curled the ball inside the far post for one of the scores of the half.
Cooper had a quiet first half by his standards but secured his second free just before the break.
Though Limerick had to concede to the vastly experienced All-Ireland champions they will take real belief from this encounter.
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, T Griffin, T O’Sullivan; T Ó Sé, M McCarthy, K Young; S Scanlon, A Maher; Darran O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, B Sheehan (capt).
LIMERICK: B Scanlon; M O’Riordan, J McCarthy, A Lane; S Lavin, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J O’Donovan, J Galvin; P Browne, J Ryan, S Buckley (capt); G Collins, I Ryan, S Kelly.
Referee: P Fox (Westmeath).