Stroke of luck helps kickstart Kerry to big win over Clare
Kingdom run out 11-point winners as Clare fail to land big punches
Darran O’Sullivan scores Kerry’s second goal during the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Clare at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Kerry 2-16 Clare 0-11
Kerry will have to wait for another day to find out where they’re at. The question will be settled for them by either Dublin or Donegal on August 28th but every hour between now and then will nag at them, drenched in doubt over who they are and what they’re capable of. They went back down the road after this with an 11-point win and really, there’s not a huge amount more than that to say about it.
They ran out 2-16 to 0-11 winners over Clare in an All-Ireland quarter-final that was just as harmless as the scoreline suggests. Goals from Donnchadh Walsh and Darran O’Sullivan buffed the numbers a bit but it could have been whatever they pleased. It would surely have been more of more was needed.
“I don’t know yet,” said Eamon Fitzmaurice when asked what he’d take from the day. “I suppose from our point of view it was always going to be a tricky game. We needed to come up and we needed to have a professional attitude. Get in get the job done and head down for Kerry again.
“It is that. There were aspects of our performance that were very good, there were other aspects that we were a bit off and were a bit rusty today. I suppose it’s a game under our belt. We’ve plenty to work on over the next couple of weeks.
“With all the talk about our side of the draw and how it easy it was, the way it is now is that the three teams that are left on our side have won the last five All-Irelands between them. So there’s heavyweights on this side of the draw from now on in. Dublin and Donegal will be a big game and whoever comes through will be a serious challenge to us.”
Clare were not. But then, they were never going to be. For Clare to make a game of this, they needed to get their scoring done early and couldn’t afford to freeze. Maybe if they snuck goal before things settled, maybe if they kept Kerry to single figures for the first half at the other end - maybe then they could stay breathing long enough to keep things interesting.
Instead, they only kicked a single point from play in the whole of the first half. They weren’t able to take advantage of a slow Kerry start - while 0-3 to 0-3 after 17 minutes was no disgrace, it was never going to be enough to match Kerry once Fitzmaurice’s side eventually hit a decent gear.
As it was, a couple of smart saves from Joe Hayes in the Clare goal were all that kept the game getting out of control. Neither Shane Enright’s shot on eight minutes or Donnchadh Walsh’s attempted palm home on 14 were perfectly struck but Hayes had to react sharply to keep both of them out all the same.
When the Kerry goal came, it owed as much to pure dumb luck as anything. Paul Murphy got in behind the Clare defence but in trying to collect the ball, he batted onto his heel and the ricochet looped past Hayes, leaving Walsh to sidefoot into an empty net. If Murphy tried it thousand times, he couldn’t have repeated the trick that pushed Kerry into a 1-3 to 0-3 lead.
That was enough to drain the life out of Clare. Kerry proceeded to chip scores at will from there on. Paul Geaney was the best Kingdom forward on show, Darran O’Sullivan the liveliest. James O’Donoghue wasn’t always particularly visible but he did curl a gorgeous effort in from the left on the half-hour.
By half-time, the Munster champions had bucked out to a 1-8 to 0-4 lead. They weren’t shooting the lights out but they weren’t having to either. Pearse Lillis got in for Clare’s first point from play just before the break, reward for a game display up to that point.
Though the chances of any sort of Clare revival were scant, they did at least come out and make inroads at the beginning of the second half. Jamie Malone landed a glorious point from out on the right, David Tubridy popped a free and followed it up with a peach from play.
Problem was, Darran O’Sullivan pinged home the second Kerry goal in amongst the Clare points. Not for the first time, Geaney’s persistence won them a ball they shouldn’t have. He fed Stephen O’Brien, whose pass inside still gave O’Sullivan a bit to do. But the Kerry corner-forward rolled his man beautifully to make the space for a pearler into the top corner.
When O’Donoghue followed up with a regulation free five minutes later, Kerry were 2-9 to 0-7 up and it was a matter of playing out time. Barry John Keane came off the bench to knock over three quality points; O’Donoghue, Geaney and O’Brien helped themselves as they saw fit. Otherwise, there was little enough to see as the game played out to little more than murmurs from the stands.
KERRY: 1 Brian Kelly; 2 Shane Enright, 3 Mark Griffin, 4 Killian Young (capt); 5 Brian Ó Beaglaoich, 6 Peter Crowley, 7 Tadhg Morley; 8 Kieran Donaghy, 9 David Moran; 10 Stephen O’Brien (0-1), 11 Paul Murphy, 12 Donnchadh Walsh (1-1); 13 Darran O’Sullivan (1-2), 14 Paul Geaney (0-3, one free, 15 James O’Donoghue (0-5, three frees).
Subs: 20 Barry John Keane (0-3) for Walsh (45 mins), 18 Aidan O’Mahony for Morley (black card, 45 mins), 19 Anthony Maher for Donaghy (48 mins),17 Bryan Sheehan (0-1, free) for Moran (53 mins), 21 Marc Ó Sé for Crowley (53 mins), 26 Tony Brosnan for O’Donoghue (66 mins).
CLARE: 1 Joe Hayes; 2 Dean Ryan, 3 Kevin Harnett, 21 Shane Hickey; 4 Martin McMahon, 6 Gordon Kelly, 5 Cian O’Dea; 8 Gary Brennan (capt), 9 Cathal O’Connor; 7 Seán Collins, 18 Podge Collins, 10 Jamie Malone (0-1); 13 Eoin Cleary (0-4, frees), 12 Pearse Lillis (0-1), 14 David Tubridy (0-4, two frees, one 45).
Subs: 11. Keelan Sexton for C O’Dea (half-time), 17 Shane McGrath for Tubridy (47 mins), 19 Enda Coughlan for O’Connor (50 mins), 15 Pat Burke (0-1) for Hickey (58 mins), 20. Seán Malone for Kelly (64 mins).