Emphatic minor triumph for Kerry over Tipperary
Jack O’Connor’s young charges dominate to cast a bright light on Kingdom’s future
Kerry players celebrate their minor football final victory over Tipperary at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.
Kerry 4-14 Tipperary 0-6
For a county that couldn’t win a minor All-Ireland for 20 years Kerry are suddenly golden. They didn’t so much defend this title as parade it, quite possibly the most complete victory ever witnessed in Croke Park at any level.
“In our wildest dreams we never envisaged that performance,” said Jack O’Connor, the man who has now managed Kerry to back-to-back minor football titles for the first time since 1962-’63, and only the third time ever. It was actually O’Connor’s 21st All-Ireland final involvement at various grades, and he put this performance right at the top.
“Out of all the crowds I have coached, this was the most complete team, that played for each other. They interchanged positions, the half-backs were able to come out, and the half forwards were able to come back.
“They have a fantastic attitude. The hunger these fellas have to represent Kerry is unbelievable.”
For Tipperary it all made for the most unforgettable of experiences, largely because they failed to perform to any extent. It also made for immediately back-to-back minor defeats, given a fortnight ago the Tipperary hurlers also lost the minor final to Galway, eight of the team featuring in both. That hurts.
“Look, whether you lose by one point or by 20 points, the disappointment is as great,” conceded Tipperary manager Charlie McKeever. “And the disappointment here is that we just didn’t perform.
“We didn’t even start the game, to be honest. But we won’t be making any excuses, and certainly not the fact so many of them were involved in the minor hurling final too.”
Still, there was no disguising Kerry’s superior skill, attitude and ability all over the field. They pulled 10 points clear by half-time, and if it felt like game over that’s because it was.
To say Kerry won pulling away would be a considerable understatement, as the second half quickly turned from competition to exhibition.
Mark O’Connor certainly lived up to his midfield billing, the Kerry captain absolutely lording the park with class and maturity far beyond his years, ably assisted by John Mark Foley.
Conor Geaney – cousin of senior star Paul – is well on his way to senior stardom too, striking 2-5, including two magically placed penalties.
All six forwards scored from play, as did both midfielders, with Bryan Sweeney striking 1-1 and Michael Foley claiming Kerry’s fourth goal. Andrew Barry was the centre of a faultless defence, and Kerry’s strength was further reinforced with James Duggan and Stephen O’Sullivan adding 0-3 from the bench.
“Look, we didn’t expect as big a performance as that,” added O’Connor, “although we really felt it was coming together the last few weeks.
“Our preparation really showed, where maybe Tipperary’s preparation was disrupted by the hurling. They only had two weeks, we had four. We went up to Fota last weekend, played some trial matches, and really felt it had come together.
“And we went after their kick outs, definitely. In the first half they had 15 kick outs and we won 11.
“So it’s just a dream come true, to win it again, with a really nice bunch of fellas, a very nice bunch of lads, very easy to manage, but with a ferocious desire to play for Kerry.
“And it’s looking good for next year. Five of those starters are underage again next year, and eight or nine of the panel. So there’s a great base now, definitely.”
O’Connor will now take over the Kerry under-21 team for 2016, the bones of those players coming from these two minor titles: “We have been working away at underage and it’s finally coming together. The development squads are finally coming to fruition now and they are producing a good standard of player with natural skills. It’s up to us then to coach and bring them together as a team.”
They say there are no regrets in sport, only when you don’t show up, and that’s story of Tipperary’s game. Tommy Nolan eventually got them off the mark after 14 minutes, running and scoring from distance, but that was a rare exception.
Alan Tynan scored three play in the first half, but they only got two scores in total in the second half, including one 45 from Jack Kennedy. For Tipperary, everything went from bad to worse while for Kerry, brilliant young students of the foot pass, victory couldn’t have been more complete.
KERRY: B Courtney; D Brosnan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; J Morgan, A Barry, G White; M O’Connor (capt, 0-1), J M Foley (0-1); B O Seanachain (0-1), S O’Shea (0-1), B Barrett (0-1); M Foley (1-0), B Sweeney (1-1), C Geaney (2-5, 0-3 frees, 2-0 penalties). Subs: S O’Sullivan (0-1) for Barrett (40 mins), J Duggan (0-2) for Foley (46 mins), M Breen for Foley, D O’Brien for O’Sullivan (both 47 mins), D Ó Sé for Brosnan, G O’Sullivan for Morgan (both 53 mins).
TIPPERARY: C Manton; T Fitzgerald, J Skehan, T Lowry; D Owens (capt), L Fahy, E Moloney; J Kennedy (0-1, 45), T Nolan (0-2); A Buckley, A Tynan (0-3), C English; S Quirke, B McGrath, B Martin. Subs: R Peters for Buckley, J Bergin for English (both half time), M Irwin for Fitzgerald (43 mins, black card), M Kehoe for McGrath (46 mins), G Whelan for Moloney (53 mins), C Cashman for Martin (56 mins).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).