Third time unlucky as Kerry suffer defeat again
SOMETIMES when you're down the world just kicks you. If Eamonn Fitzmaurice bought a winning lottery ticket right now he would probably drop it in the fire checking the numbers.
Of course, the Kerry manager will neither want to nor expect to rely on luck as his managerial career beds down but last Sunday in Newbridge, as the county's senior footballers suffered a third successive national league defeat, Fitzmaurice and his players might have hoped for a little break against a Kildare team that could - by the end - count themselves lucky to have registered their third straight win.
Take the 65th minute of last Sunday's action before a sell-out crowd of 6,000 partisan supporters in St Conleth's Park. Trailing by two points but with the momentum on their side, Kerry launched another attack through the excellent Johnny Buckley. Rising in confidence, Buckley's swung a long-range kick towards the post only for it to drop down from high off the metalwork. In the ensuing confusion Eoin Brosnan got the slightest of touches on the ball barely three feet from the goal line. KNowing even less about the situation than Brosnan, Kildare goalkeeper Shane Connolly somehow parried the ball to safety. On another day Brosnan would have flicked Kerry into the lead and Kerry would probably have won the game from their.
Four minutes later Brosnan rose highest to Buckley's inviting '45' kick, but with the advancing Connolly beaten, the ball drop kindly into Mikey Conway's arms on the goal line. Credit the Kildare centre back for his positioning but on another day...
If Kerry could hardly bemoan the fact that another very patchy performance had left them chasing a goal in the endgame there was justifiable grounds to feel an injustice had been visited upon them a little earlier in the contest - an injustice that had a huge bearing on the result. In the 46th minute another wayward Connolly kickout drifted out over the sideline without touching another soul. Indeed, Tomas O Se had judiciously tracked the flight of the ball and the position of two Kildare players before letting the ball fly out of play uniterrupted. The linesman decreed O Se had touched the ball. Possession to Kildare. Exactly 30 seconds and six passes later Johnny Doyle billowed the Kerry net with a cracking goal, which sent the home side 2-6 to 0-7 ahead.
Four minutes later Emmet Bolton kicked Kildare six clear and one feared for another Kerry meltdown.
Points from O Se and Jonathon Lyne steadied Kerry before another questionable decision handed Kildare a penalty for a perceived foul by Lyne on Brian Flanagan. There was contact but it hardly seemed excessive or illegal. No matter, Brendan Kealy got down well to his right to push away Doyle's penalty and Kerry were still on life-support but breathing.
The ambition and guts and pride that was so lacking in the recent defeat by Dublin kicked in, and was in no one better embodied than in Johnny Buckley who grew in stature as the game wore on. Two confidently converted frees from the Dr Crokes man reeled Kildare in further as Brosnan saw those two goal chances go abegging.
Peter Crowley belted over another long range point to trim the margin to just a point, but in Kerry's urgency to kick another point and rescue an invaluable league point they allowed Kildare raid forward for substitute Paddy Brophy to add the exclaimation mark to a frantic contest.
If it finished encouragingly enough for Kerry - and this was a vast improvement on the Dublin game - then there was also much to lament, again, in the visitors' game. For a start Kerry registered sixteen wides, of which at least a dozen were very scorable. The 'glass half full' merchants have a case in that at least last Sunday Kerry were creating the scoring chances; the pessimists also have a case that such wastefulness is a poor indictment of the young (and not so young) pretenders to the forward lines.
The concession of two more goals should also be a concern, especially for the manner in which Seanie Johnston and then Johnny Doyle were afforded the time and space to beat a helpless Kealy in the Kerry goal. Johnston gave Shane Enright a torrid first half of it, and but for some erratic shooting themselves Kildare could have been further ahead at half time than the 1-5 to 0-5 lead they held.
By that stage Darran O'Sullivan - withdrawn from the starting line-up becuase of tiredness after a tough Sigerson Cup weekend the previous week - had been thrown into the action for Mike O'Donoghue, who made little impact in 25 minutes at full forward. The Spa man wasn't alone in that regard. Too often the Kerry forwards coughed up possession against physically stronger Kildare side, Kieran O'Leary, Barry John Keane and Donnchadh Walsh the worst - but not the only - offenders.
Seconds into the second half Daniel Flynn broke through and might have had a goal or a penalty - as Killian Young pulled him back by the jersey. The Kildare got neither but did recycle the ball for Johnston to score his third point from play. By now Marc O Se had taken to marking the Cavan man, while Aidan O'Mahony was trying to get to grips, in every way possible, with Tomas O'Connor.
Two minutes later Jonathan Lyne, who started as a wing forward and finished with two points from play, almost goaled with a low shot after Donnchadh Walsh had teed him up, before Buckley and Lyne pointed to take Kerry to within two points of Kildare.
Doyle's excellent goal arrived soon after but it was his penalty miss that caused Kildare to "panic a bit" thereafter as manager Kieran McGeeney suggested, and as Kerry found some hitherto absent appetite for the fight Kildare regressed into a version of their former sevles. From Bolton's 50th minute score to Brophy's injury-time insurance point the Lilywhites went almost 22 minutes without a score. In that time Kerry found the target five times but it won't have gone unnoticed that those scores came from three defenders - Tomas O Se, Lyne and substitutre Peter Crowley, along with the increasingly influential Buckley, by now lording it around midfield.
In the 'plus' column there were decent displays from Marc O Se, Killian Young and Kieran Donaghy, but Brosnan looked heavy-legged, Walsh was clearly rusty in all aspects of his game and James O'Donoaghue's free-taking radar went off-kilter after converting three early frees.
Had Doyle converted that penalty it's conceivable that Kerry could have been beaten by ten or twelve points; at the end and with a little luck they could have escaped with a win. In these games, however, teams generally have to make their own luck, or better still use craft and guile and power to engineer a favourable result. Last Sunday luck deserted Kerry but there were small yet encouraging signs that they might yet dig themselves out of this current predicament using their heads and their hearts.
KILDARE: S Connolly; P Kelly, M Foley, H McGrillen; E Bolton (0-1), M Conway, E Doyle; M O'Flaherty, P O'Neill; B Flanagan, N Kelly (0-1), D Flynn; S Johnston (1-3), T O'Connor, J Doyle (1-2, 0-2f). Subs: A Smith for M O'Flaherty (45 mins); P Brophy (0-1) for N Kelly (58 mins); O Lyons for Bolton (61 mins); C McNally for Flanagan (61 mins); E O'Flaherty for Johnston (70 mins).
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne (0-2), T Ó Sé (0-1), K Young; K Donaghy, E Brosnan; M O'Donoghue, D Walsh, J Buckley (0-4, 2f); K O'Leary, J O'Donoghue (0-4, 3f), BJ Keane. Subs: Darran O'Sullivan for M O'Donoghue (26 mins); P Crowley (0-1) for Enright (45 mins); B Maguire for Keane (52 mins); F Fitzgerald for T Ó Sé (67 mins).
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)