Kerry show no signs of letting up to make it four from four
Kingdom put in huge effort to see off Galway in Tuam and maintain 100 per cent record
Galway’s Ciaran Duggan with Mark Griffin and Sean O’Shea of Kerry during their Allianz League Division One encounter. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Galway 1-10 Kerry 0-14
“I don’t have time to dream,” sighed Peter Keane as he faced into a nippy Tuam breeze and the satisfaction of a hard-earned win on the road. Maybe, but the vocal Kerry contingent who descended on Sean Purcell’s old playground might allow their minds to wander a little now.
Four wins from four for the Kingdom. This one was built on efficiency, a ravenous appetite for defensive slog and a blazing closing act after being hit with a 65th-minute goal for Galway. It was a Sunday in which Tommy Walsh at times resembled that lordly figure of a decade ago and in which Stephen O’Brien bested Eoghan Kerin in a riveting duel, turning in what Colm Cooper, on RTÉ radio, described as “one of the best games I’ve seen Stephen play for years”.
All this and the Clifford kid recuperating ‘below’ and the lesser spotted James O’Donoghue just a rumour away from a return to green and gold. Maybe there’s a point to playing the All-Ireland championship after all. Keane may not be in the dreaming business but he readily conceded that the afternoon’s work was pleasing.
“It is. But that game could have gone any which way at that time. Galway were coming and they were coming and they got the goal at a great time to put them totally back into the frame. We were coughing up a bit of ball and you can feel it here: the wind is quite strong. We had the wind in the first half but it certainly wasn’t anything like that. We had a purple patch just before half-time which probably helped us and coincided with them missing the guy with the black card as well. But we are relatively happy.”
Kerry’s first-half aggressive, man-to-man coverage on Galway’s kick-out knocked the home team out of kilter. The avenues which their habitual ball-carriers – Gareth Bradshaw, Johnny Heaney, O Ceallaigh and Shane Walsh – like to exploit were completely fenced off, forcing the maroon team to punt speculatively where Michael Daly led the front line. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, they lost a series of possessions around the Kerry 65, which the visitors exploited before the Galway defence could regroup, with Shane Enright and Stephen O’Brien finding enough space to tap over the closing points of the half.
That sequence was a clear advertisement of what Kerry can do if they are given time and room to play pretty football. But the Kerry workrate was ferocious here, forcing situations where fullback Sean Andy O Ceallaigh was the only open outlet for Ruairi Lavelle. In one sequence, Shane Walsh, ball-carrying and going through the gears, was hunted down in front of the stand by Tom O’Sullivan; Johnny Duane had just secured possession when he was stripped by Dara Moyinhan and from that turnover, Kerry pointed through Gavin O’Brien.
The Tuam chorus became agitated, calling for Galway to drive the ball forward. The question they couldn’t answer was: to whom? On the sideline, Kevin Walsh could be seen and heard demanding more movement from his attackers: more give-and-go, more angled runs; more options for the player in possession.
Too often, too many Galway men stood still at the same time. They registered just one wide in that first half but it was significant: a quick, clever free from Daly put Sean Kelly through but he fired his goal chance wide. That was a let-off for Kerry. Trailing 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time, Galway got some forward momentum through the hugely industrious shifts put in by Sean Andy O Ceallaigh, Gary O’Donnell, Ciaran Duggan and Johnny Heaney and then they narrowed the gap through the boot of Barry McHugh.
Then Danny Cummins capitalised on a Heaney shot that dropped short, batting the ball into the net from point-blank range. With just five minutes of normal time remaining, Galway appeared to have taken the initiative. It was short-lived. O’Brien won yet another ball and forced Tom Flynn into a black card foul as he bore down on goal. Then Tomas O Se, just on the field, pushed Kerry back in front with an audacious bursting run-and-score. Tom O’Sullivan, who by rights should not have been able to stand at this stage, sealed the deal with a 73rd-minute point. A Heaney point came too late for Galway to rescue anything. Kevin Walsh’s team were hurt by black card fouls just before the end of both halves, coughing up a combined 0-8 during the minutes when they were down a player.
“Yeah, they were at crucial stages,” said Walsh. “It is a bit disappointing. We feel we definitely kicked away a few good opportunities. We asked for a bit of character testing at half-time and in fairness they showed that in spades. It mightn’t have shown fully on the scoreboard.”
Last year, Galway used the league as a springboard. This year, the competition is serving Kerry well. There is a sense of things still at assembly stage about the Keane project. They are still only training one night a week and like any Kerry man who has ever managed his county, Keane nimbly sidesteps any hint of lavish February praise.
“When we got in it wasn’t about trying to win this or that game. It was about trying to put a team together so you have a bit of structure and can be difficult to play against and to get fellas playing with a bit of heart and workrate and see where you go from that.”
One step closer to a league final is the immediate destination,
GALWAY: 1 R Lavelle; 2 E Kerin, 21 SA O Ceallaigh; 4 D Wynne; 5 G O’Donnell, 6 G Bradshaw, 7 J Heaney (0-1); 8 T Flynn, 9 C Duggan; 22 M Daly (0-1), 3 J Duane, 12 S Kelly; 10 S Walsh (0-1), 25 B McHugh (0-5 3 frees), 15 A O Laoi (0-1),
Subs: 24 L Silke for 22 M Daly (45 mins), 23 J Daly for 6 G Bradshaw (48 mins), 13 P Cunningham (0-1) for 3 J Duane (50 mins), 20 D Cummins (1-0) for 10 S Walsh (58 mins), 26 F O Laoi for 12 S Kelly (61 mins inj), 19 T Morley for 14 T Walsh (68 mins).
KERRY: 1 S Ryan; 2 P Crowley, 7 T O’Sullivan (0-1), 4 S Enright (0-1); 5 G Crowley, 6 P Murphy, 3 J Sherwood; 8 J Barry, 9 M Griffin; 10 D O’Connor, 11 S O’Shea (0-5, 4 frees, 50), 14 T Walsh, 13 D Moynihan (0-1), 12 G O’Brien (0-2), 15 S O’Brien (0-2), 10 D O’Connor.
Subs: 18 M Geaney (0-1 mark) for 10 D O’Connor (half time), 17 J Lyne for 12 G O’Brien (59 mins), 23 T O Se (0-1) for 4 S Emright (70 mins).
Referee: J McQuillan.