Kerry 2-23 Limerick 0-6
ife under returning Kerry manager Jack O'Connor got off to a flying start as the Kingdom comfortably defeated a depleted Limerick side by 23 points at Austin Stack Park on Wednesday evening.
By half-time Kerry were 16 points ahead against Billy Lee's side - the current McGrath Cup champions, with the Clifford brothers - David and Paudie raising the white flag for the hosts.
All-Star David Clifford and Gavin Crowley had opened the scoring, putting Kerry two points ahead inside the opening four minutes - a sign of things to come.
In truth, this Group B round one game was done and dusted after just five minutes when Paudie Clifford found the back of the net to put Kerry five points ahead.
By the 11th minute, the younger of the two Clifford brothers, David, tapped home from close range to make it 2-3 to 0-1 in favour of Kerry. Limerick had responded with their opening point from Cillian Fahy.
Kerry led by nine points - 2-4 to 0-1 - by the first water break.
Limerick struggled to deal with a very strong front six of Dara Moynihan, the Clifford brothers, Stephen O'Brien, Killian Spillane, and Paul Geaney, while Stefan Okunbor, making his Senior debut and first appearance for Jack O'Connor's side since returning from AFL side Geelong Cats, dominated midfield for O'Connor's alongside Templenoe's Adrian Spillane.
Additional first half points by Paul Geaney, Stephen O'Brien, Paudie Clifford, Pa Warren, David Clifford and Pa Warren had Kerry leading 2-13 to 0-3 at the break. Fahy had slotted over his second of the evening to give the travelling Limerick support something to shout about.
Both sides emptied their benches in the second half, but Limerick could only manage three further scores - a free from Robbie Bourke, a Dara Noonan point, and a Peter Nash point from play with three minutes remaining – as Kerry opened the gap to win by a margin of 2-23 to six points.
KERRY: Shane Murphy; Dan O'Donoghue, Jason Foley, Tom O'Sullivan; Pa Warren (0-1), Mike Breen, Gavin Crowley (0-1); Stefan Okunbor, Adrian Spillane; Dara Moynihan (0-1), Paudie Clifford (1-2), Stephen O'Brien (0-1); Killian Spillane (0-3), David Clifford (capt.) (1-4, one free, one mark), Paul Geaney (0-3, one mark, one free)
Subs: Tony Brosnan (0-3, one free) for David Clifford, Sean O'Shea (0-3, three frees) for Okunbor, Cian Gammel for Warren (all half-time), Brian O Beaglaioch for Breen, Michael Burns (0-1) for Paudie Clfford (both 41 mins), Jack Savage for Moynihan (48 mins), Paul O'Shea for Adrian Spillane (50 mins), Dara Roche for Geaney (54 mins)
LIMERICK: Donal O'Sullivan (capt.); Jim Liston, Luke Murphy, Maurice O'Sullivan; Tony McCarthy, Cillian Fahy (0-2), Colm McSweeney; Darragh Tracey, Rory O'Brien; Pádraig De Brún, Diarmuid Kelly, Dara Noonan (0-1); Peter Nash (0-1), Robbie Bourke (0-1, one free), Hugh Bourke
Subs: Liam O'Sullivan (0-1) for Maurice O'Sullivan (16 mins), John Hayes for O'Brien, Barry Coleman for Robbie Bourke (both 46 mins), Shane Barry for Kelly (54 mins), Darragh Ranahan for Liston (58 mins)
Referee: John Ryan (Cork)