Kerry 1-20 Galway 2-10
Kerry moved comfortably into the All-Ireland semi-final after weathering a spirited Galway challenge in a highly entertaining All-Ireland quarter final in Croke Park yesterday.
As they watched the second game here, Eamonn Fitzmaurice and company probably dissected the way in which Galway cut through them to score two wonderful goals which kept this game alive as a contest, in particular the memorable solo effort by Tom Flynn just before half-time.
Overall, though, it was a very solid day for the Munster champions. Fitzmaurice didn't blink when they lost midfielder and free-taker Bryan Sheehan after just two minutes. They sent in Barry Moran who promptly thumped a huge point from distance to initiate a half hour of relentless Kerry accuracy and economy.
All day, they showed poise up front and that was the main difference between the teams. James O'Donoghue's embellished an already glittering reputation: his 1-5 from play was one of the highlights of the afternoon. He menaced Galway every time he got possession and his accuracy seemed contagious. Kerry had 0-5 off the bench, including three good points from Barry John Keane late on, when Galway were pressing hard for parity and left themselves exposed at the back.
The best move of the match was Galway's second goal: a low ball from Paul Conroy was collected brilliantly by Seán Armstrong and he flicked Michael Lundy, whose running bothered Kerry all afternoon. He ran at Brian Kelly and finished coolly and at 2-6 to 1-12, Galway supporters roared with real belief for the first time all afternoon. A delightful point from Shane Walsh left Galway within two points of the Kerry men with 20 to go but that was as good as it got.
The first half hour was easily summed up. Kerry couldn't miss. Galway couldn't score. By the time that Paul Geaney registered Kerry's first wide in the 34th minute, Galway had already amassed a sumptuous 10, misfiring from every conceivable angle in Croke Park. Half of those were decent looks, the other half were kicked under pressure as Kerry's drifting, plundering defence closed in and isolated the maroon men and forced them to hit and hope.
The Kerry backs were on to any meandering play like a wolf pack and too often the Galway men were undone by their own uncertainty as much as anything. Placing Paul Murphy on Walsh played a big part in neutralising Galway's playmaker for the first half but every so often there were flashes of what might be on offer for the Connacht team if they could break the drifting Kerry press and get fliers like Danny Cummins or Lundy in one-on-one situations. For the first seven minutes, Kerry were content to absorb the maroon pressure and watched them sling over five wides. Then, they went to work.
Declan O’Sullivan remains one of the most watchable football players on the circuit. Yesterday, he ran out in Croke Park with the most impressively strapped knees since Patrick Ewing last suited up in earnest for the Knicks. The Dromid man conducted the Kerry attack during their most devastating period of play, clipping the fifth point of 1-5 scoring burst did much to deflate any hope of a raid that Galway might have nurtured.
The goal did the damage and it came from a familiar source: O’Donoghue took possession on the turn, glanced up to get his bearings and then blew past Donal O’Neill – who had zero covering help –and calmly fired his shot on the narrow side of Thomas Healy’s goal. It was a lesson in cool finishing and one which the Galway forwards might have heeded: run at your men.
As it happened, there was one devastating demonstration of direct running from Galway. With Gareth Bradshaw repeatedly rumbling forward to try and kick-start the Galway attack, s Flynn took his long handpass at half-way, shook off Declan O'Sullivan and set off on a long canter down the heart of Croke Park which had the look of a famous goal even before he finished it. With O'Sullivan and Aidan O'Mahony chasing his long shadow, All-Ireland's jangling in their back pockets, Flynn kept going and going with Paul Conroy clearing the decks with a smart dummy run. Flynn's finish from close range was flawless and it flung Galway right back into contention.
Fitmaurice withdrew gilded names in the second period: Declan O’Sullivan, Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé all made way. The sight confirmed that Kerry are evolving but they still clipped 1-20 from play, enough to guide them through to the last four against a Galway team whose best days look to be ahead of them.
KERRY: 1 B Kelly; 2 M Ó Sé, 5 P Murphy, 4 S Enright; 3 A O'Mahony, 6 C Young, 7 F Fitzgerald; 8 A Maher, 9 B Sheehan; 10 M Geaney (0-1), 11 J Buckley (0-2, one free), 12 D Walsh (0-2); 13 P Geaney (0- 4, one free), 14 Declan O'Sullivan (0-1), 15 J O'Donoghue (1-5).
Substitutes: 19 D Moran (0-1) for B Sheehan (2 mins, inj), 17 P Crowley for A O'Mahoney (46 mins), 18 Darran O'Sullivan for Declan O'Sullivan (52 mins), 21 BJ Keane (0-3) for J Buckley (56 mins), 20 K O'Leary (0-1) for D Walsh (59 mins), 24 M Griffin for M O'Se (66 mins).
GALWAY: T Healy; 2 D O'Neill, 3 F Hanley, 4 J Moore; 5 G Bradshaw (0-2), 6 G O'Donnell, 7 P Varley; 8 F O'Curraoin, 9 T Flynn (1-0); 10 M Lundy (1-1), 14 P Conroy (0-1), 23 J O'Brien; 13 M Martin, 11 S Walsh (0-5, three frees), 15 D Cummins.
Substitutes: 22 S Armstrong for D Cummins (half-time), 25 D Comer (0-1) for J O'Brien (half-time), 12 K Kelly for J Moore (48 mins inj), 24 E Hoare for M Martin (56 mins), 20 C Mulryan for P Varley (67 min),
Referee: E Kinsella