Kerry come off the ropes to out-point spirited Cavan

Youngster Seán O’Shea kicks 12 points as Peter Keane’s side time things to perfection

Cavan 0-13 Kerry 0-16

Kerry came to Kingspan Breffni Park and renewed the storied rivalry with Cavan in an interesting match, by the end of which they had secured the points in this AFL Division One encounter.

In retrospect they played rope-a-dope with the home team, whose hard running and inventive kicking in the first half left them four points ahead but who flagged badly thereafter, allowing Kerry to power into the contest and win, while easing away.

Their victory was built on some exemplary finishing by Seán O’Shea, the youngster who made his debut last year and who totalled 0-12 for the winners. Just two came from play but his dead-ball kicking technique is something of a performance in its own right and left him literally 10 out of 10, allowing that some of the frees were straightforward.


There was a stiff enough breeze on the pitch and that didn't help Cavan in the second half but the most telling statistic for the second 35 minutes was that they managed just two points, both from the hard-working Martin Reilly. Goalkeeper Raymond Galligan was off-target with a couple of frees, within his range but into the wind.

Kerry had been very cautious in the first half, funnelling back at the drop of a hat once possession was lost up front. The problem with that was this left the cupboard bare if there were any snappy turnarounds.

"In the first half I thought our work-rate was very poor," said manager Peter Keane, "and we managed to rectify that at half-time when we were down by four points but turned it around in the second half to win by 0-9 to 0-2. Now that wind was a factor.

“I don’t think we necessarily set up to be defensive, I think that’s just the way it happened; we were under a bit of pressure and we had to tidy it up and get it sorted at half-time.”

Cavan had looked more comfortable up to that point and their counterattacks combined fast, passing movement with some excellent long kicking to ambush the Kerry defence. Cian Mackey unwrapped a couple of excellent deliveries to create marks and points for Conor Madden and Jack Brady, whereas the counterattacking from half-back was sufficiently deft and accurate to yield four points, including an excellent brace from Ciarán Brady.

He and Dara McVeety were excellent at slipping through the congestion in the middle, where Cavan were dominant in the first half, and the loss of both in the second-half physical exchanges – an outcome the home support didn't see as entirely coincidental – was a major impediment to the team's chances of holding out.

At the break the score, 0-11 to 0-7, was the same as the actual result the previous week when Tyrone had been defeated in Killarney.

It took Kerry time to get into the match. Up until Paul Geaney's admittedly cracking point from the left corner in the 27th minute they had relied exclusively on O'Shea's free-taking. They didn't actually take the lead until the 68th minute when replacement Tommy Griffin floated the ball over to cap one of the team's increasingly penetrative movements and give them a 0-13 to 0-12 lead, which they enhanced with three of the match's last four points.

The increasing pressure after the break meant that Cavan hadn't quite the same amount of time to get out of defence where they had previously been ultra-composed, led by the excellent Killian Clarke, and their fading energy levels left them more ponderous in launching counterattacks.

Tommy Walsh had been introduced at half-time but Kerry didn't get as much value in terms of the advance mark as might have been expected from a player hard-wired for both football and Aussie Rules, but he was encouragingly energetic and played his part in the recovery.

Cavan manager Mickey Graham wasn't unhappy, even if mindful that two narrow defeats leaves them pointless and a next assignment at 100 per cent Mayo.

“Look, we’d have been very happy going in at half-time and played some great football. In the second half, against the wind, we struggled to get the ball into the scoring areas, unlike in the first. There were in fairness a couple of unforced errors and we lost a couple of key players to injury in the second half and they all contributed to the turnaround.

“Kerry had some quality players to bring off the bench in the second half with lots of experience and they man-managed the game and saw it out well. Overall we’d be happy with the performance and the work ethic of the lads. There’s a lot to work on and a lot to improve.”

For his counterpart, in these days of rapid-fire fixtures punctuated by Sigerson demands on younger players, next week's visit to Tralee by All-Ireland champions Dublin isn't a matter of keeping excitement about his evolving team within reason.

“I don’t see managing expectations as being anywhere in my role or brief. Look, at the end of the day we’re going out of here and my biggest concern is going home and finding out in the next couple of days, and maybe even as late as Wednesday night, where we’re at with players.”

CAVAN: 1 R Galligan (capt; 0-1, free); 2 J McLoughlin, 9 K Clarke, 3 P Faulkener; 5 N Murray (0-1), 6 C Brady (0-2), 7 C Rehill (0-1); 14 T Galligan, 19 P Graham; 12 M Reilly (0-3, two frees), 11 D McVeety (0-1), 10 P Smith; 25 C Mackey, 13 J Brady (0-1), 15 C Madden (0-3).

Subs: 21 L Fortune for McVeety (39 mins), 20 S Smith for J Brady (51), 18 S Murray for C Brady (61), 8. M Argue for Graham (67), 23 C Bradley for Mackey (72).

KERRY: 1 S Ryan; 2 P Crowley, 3 J Sherwood, 4 B Ó Beaglaioch; 5 T Morley, 6 P Murphy (capt), 7 T O'Sullivan; 8 J Barry, 9 A Spillane; 10 D O'Connor, 11 S O'Shea (0-12, nine frees, one 45), 12 J Lyne; 13 K Spillane, 14 P Geaney (0-2), 15 S O'Brien (0-1).

Subs: 17 D Moynihan for K Spillane (35 mins), 21 T Walsh for Lyne (h/t), 20 G O'Brien for A Spillane (46), 22 M Griffin (0-1) for O'Connor (64), 23 D Moran for O'Brien (71),

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

Attendance: 5,816

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times