Kerry write the final chapter to old script
PAIDI O SEA marked his managerial debut in the championship with a satisfactory win but one which did departing Tipperary coach Seamus McCarthy few favours.
It's a familiar scenario for McCarthy whose team had bowed out of the previous three champion ships on scorelines that distorted the extent of the problems they caused their opponents. Yesterday's first round of the Bank of Ireland Munster championship followed that unhappy script.
The match was played in dreadful conditions in Clonmel. Driving rain might have exacerbated the problems but it was hard to justify the decision of the Munster Council to stage such an important match at the Sportsfield where there is such inadequate shelter for the spectators.
The vast majority of the approximately 5,000 attendance were well soaked by the final whistle, which is more than the players were easily able to achieve in the dressing-rooms where there was some chaos over the provision of shower facilities.
Kerry will be happy that they have climbed the first hurdle and that it proved to be such a test. More to the point, the management's reaction to crises that arose was sharp and decisive, and the players showed resolve in scrapping it out when the match was going badly. This commitment was crucial in finally reeling in the match.
The wretched weather added to Kerry's problems, giving their superior sharpness little scope to make a decisive impact. Initial apprehensions were confirmed by a second-minute free which Tipperary's corner forward Peter Lambert floated in on the Kerry goal.
The ball was left by corner back Mike Hassett for debutant goalkeeper Declan O'Keeffe who took the ball, but behind the line, and a goal was signalled. O'Keeffe, said afterwards that it had been: "a mix-up between the two of us."
It was a score that helped separate the teams for nearly an hour. Kerry's captain, Billy O Se, said: "The first goal was an added bonus for them, it gave them extra pep and they started picking up everything around the middle. So they did.
Central players Derry Foley and the industrious Brian Burke worked midfield with great success and Tom Macken spearheaded a committed defence from centre back.
Behind him the full back line was coping well although Brian Lacey went on to experience deepening difficulties with the challenge of Gene Farrell. Both Sean Brett and Liam Cronin, however, were tight and effective - to the considerable discomfort of such distinguished personalities as Dara O Cinneide and Maurice Fitzgerald.
Potentially the most damaging weaknesses were apparent at the other end of the pitch where Criostoir McGrath was making life difficult for Kerry full back Anthony Gleeson. McGrath is big and aggressive and dominated the high-ball exchanges. Unfortunately for Tipperary, as soon as he began to assert his influence by central involvement in the early scores, the supply line began to dry up.
It took Kerry 13 minutes to score and even when they began to come into the match, their accuracy was very poor. Despite the conditions, it was the smaller forwards, Farrell and Billy O Se who were prominent in moving around and causing problems. Lambert, who had a lively first half and faded a bit afterwards, pushed Tipperary two points clear at the interval, 1-4 to 0-5.
Kerry started the second half badly and all present could sense the unease in the favourites' performance. The wind was freshening in Tipperary's favour and Kerry's wides total continued to mount, nine in the first half extending to 16.
Crucial changes were, however, made Gleeson was removed at half-time and Sean Burke moved to full back with Killian Burns introduced at centre back. This secured what had been a wobbly full back line.
Second, Maurice Fitzgerald was pulled back to midfield where he increased Kerry's share of the ball and the efficacy of its distribution. The move had the additional benefit of bringing O Cinneide to full forward where he was to be the instrument of his team's clinical finish. Third, Billy O Se was dispatched to a roving commission as corner forward.
Although Tipperary clung to the lead until the 57th minute, the writing had been on the wall for a while and only Kerry's heroic inability to get the ball into the net maintained the balance. Tipperary goalkeeper Philly Ryan scrambled the ball off the line in the 49th minute and Liam Hassett clipped the post after being put through in the 54th minute.
Paidi O Se said afterwards that once Kerry pulled level, he knew they would win. This they did through Billy O Se in the 57th minute. Tipperary managed only three points in the second half and none during the closing 20 minutes.
The winners had hit the front through a point by substitute John Crowley when O Cinneide wrapped it up with a splendidly taken goal. In the closing seven minutes, Kerry screwed home their advantage by adding another 1-4.