Kerry 4-21 Galway 0-11
A David Clifford hat-trick banished the ghosts of last year's championship defeat to Cork as an empathic 22-point drubbing of Galway ensured Kerry got back to winning ways at Austin Stack Park on Saturday.
Clifford, causing the Galway defence all sorts of problems from the start, hit 3-6, despite being rested with 20 minutes to go.
His third goal on 40 minutes – a finish even Johan Cruyff would have been proud of – could prove to be an early contender for goal of the year.
Grabbing 4-8 between them, Fossa brothers Paudie and David Clifford ran riot for Peter Keane's side, certainly showing that the Kingdom will be a force to be reckoned with this summer.
Some 4-12 of Kerry's impressive 4-21 tally came from the full-forward line alone, with Killian Spillane – nephew of Kerry legend Pat Spillane – contributing 0-4 from play.
It took Paudie Clifford just 37 seconds to get his senior debut off to a perfect start, scoring a point from play – a sign of things to come. Damien Comer equalised a minute later but that was as good as it got for the visiting Connacht men.
Kerry were rampant in the first quarter and led 1-7 to 0-2 at the water break thanks to a superb David Clifford goal in the 15th minute.
Clifford finished it off with a lovely hand pass into the net, but the goal came about after superb link up play between Spillane and the impressive Sean O’Shea, before the latter found Clifford without even looking up to open up an early seven-point lead.
The water break didn’t prove to be a momentum breaker for the men in green and gold as Paudie Clifford’s dream debut got even better.
Moments after the restart, the elder of the Clifford brothers met Dara Moynihan's pass and slipped the ball past Bernard Power to make it 2-7 to 0-3. The Fossa club man gave the eyes to Power, sending the Galway keeper the wrong way, to fire the ball into the back of the net.
Showing no signs of taking the foot off the gas, Spillane grabbed his fourth of the game to put 10 points between the two sides at half-time – 2-10 to 0-6 in favour of Keane’s charges.
Despite the weather taking a turn for the worse, Kerry continued where they left off in the second half, and David Clifford put the result beyond any doubt within 90 seconds of the restart with his second goal.
Five minutes later the Fossa man linked up well with his brother, to stun the Galway defence with a first touch and a drag-back that sent Power the wrong way. A neat finish to the net, more often seen on the soccer pitches of continental Europe, helped make it 4-13 to 0-7 at the second water break.
The Clifford brothers’ cousin Paul O’Shea, a second-half introduction, even got in on the scoring, marking his senior debut with Kerry’s 14th point.
Power's superb low save denied substitute Adrian Spillane what would have been Kerry's fifth goal with five minutes remaining, but further scores from Paudie Clifford and O'Shea stretched the Kingdom's winning margin to 22 points.
Kerry supporters watching from afar will have welcomed a return to a more traditional style of football, attacking values and a willingness to press the Galway kick-out, tactics which will certainly be put to the test in their next outing against Dublin.
Speaking after the game, Kerry manager Peter Keane was quick to play down his side's performance.
“It’s five and a half months since we played, so there was a lot of things to try and get right. We were watching every little thing that was going on,” he said.
“We were fortunate with a few things that went our way. I wouldn’t say the scoreboard would reflect the performance of either team, but we won and we’re moving on. I wouldn’t pay a blind bit of notice to the result. No question about it, I wouldn’t pay any attention to it. That result could have gone the other way just as handily.
“The key thing for us today was to try and get out injury-free and hopefully we have come out of it injury-free. In normal circumstances we would have a game like this behind closed doors as a challenge game with another county.”
Next up for Kerry is a trip to Semple Stadium in Thurles to take on All-Ireland champions Dublin on Sunday. Galway host Connacht rivals Roscommon at Pearse Stadium on Sunday – a rehearsal for the Connacht championship semi-final.
KERRY: K Fitzgibbon, B Ó Beaglaoich, T Morley; J Foley; P Murphy, G Crowley, G White; D Moran, J Barry; D Moynihan, S O'Shea (0-7, 3 frees, 2 marks, 2 45'), P Geaney; D Clifford (3-6, 1 free, 1 mark), K Spillane (0-4), P Clifford (1-2). Subs: P O'Shea (0-1) for Geaney (41 mins), D O'Connor for Moran (41 mins), T Walsh (0-1, one mark) for D Clifford (50 mins), A Spillane for Beaglaoich, G O'Sullivan for G White (both 56 mins), M Burns for Moynihan (61 mins), M Breen for Murphy (66 mins)
GALWAY: B Power; J Glynn, S Mulkerrin, L Silke; G O'Donnell, D McHugh, J Heaney; P Cooke, P Conroy (0-2, 1 free); P Kelly, M Tierney (0-1), E Brannigan; D Conneely (0-1), D Comer (0-2), S Walsh (0-2, 1 free). Subs: C Sweeney for Heaney, R Steede for Cooke (both 27 mins), R Finnerty (0-1 free) for P Kelly, S Kelly (0-1) for G O'Donnell (both h-t), F Ó Laoi for Conroy (49 mins), T Culhane for Conneely (58 mins), K Molloy (0-1) for Brannigan (60 mins).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)