ALL IRELAND MBHC FINAL
THIS was, quite simply, a breathtaking performance by Seanie O'Shea's Kerry minor hurlers.
The back of this championship was quite obviously broken in their two earlier fixtures in the competition – against Meath in the quarter-final and Kildare in the semi-final. After twenty minutes on Saturday the game took the form of a coronation for the Kingdom. They already led 2-4 to 0-3. The gig was up. Heading into the game Kerry weren't to know how easy it would prove for them. All they knew and all their manager told them was to expect a battle.
He told them to work hard. To keep their feet on the ground. To play their own game. To play it to the best of their abilities and hope that it would be enough. It was more than enough. They looked the stronger side, physically speaking, they looked the more cohesive team, they played the more fluent brand of hurling and they hit the finer scores. That's no small achievement considering the fact that a good number of this side were in Stack Park the weekend before last with their clubs.
O'Shea and his management team but one solid week of training – or to put it another way, just two training sessions – with all his players in the build-up to the final. The work, however, was done long before then. This was no last minute effort. A huge amount of work went into this All Ireland campaign, O'Shea explains.
"The start of the year it was easy to do the work because they weren't involved with their clubs and we got a lot of work done. We got them very fit. They went back to their clubs then and they did a lot of hurling. It kind of worked in very handy for us that we were able to do a lot of the physical work when they weren't with their clubs," he said after the match.
If this game was ever a contest – and we'd dispute that it was – it was probably in the opening ten minutes. The Roscommon corner forward Robbie Fallow showed a nice turn of pace and skill when he got possession of the ball and he managed to score a couple of points (one from a placed ball). The thing was he very rarely got his hands on the ball. Largely due to the efforts of Daniel Collins and Brendan O'Leary in the Kerry engine room. They were the undisputed kings of the Gaelic Grounds at the weekend.
On the half-back line David Goulding – a tidy hurler, very much reminiscent of Kerry senior star John Griffin – Dougie Fitzell and Tommy Casey proved impassable. The full-back line? Well it's hard to say a whole pile about them. Not because they didn't have fine games, more so because they didn't have a huge amount of work to do. If Opta stats were in the house we suspect the Kingdom would have been credited with anything of up to 70% of the possession of the sioltar.
And what did they Kingdom do with that possession? Well they scored at will. In the opening twenty minutes of the half Ricky Heffernan dropped back to the half-forward line and allowed Thomas Casey into the number 14 position. The result? A goal for Casey. Towards the end of the half the two swapped. The result? Heffernan got his first goal of the game. At half-time Kerry were 2-8 to 0-4 ahead.
Kerry continued in the same vein into the second half. Michael O'Leary, efficient and involved all the way through, got the half's first score. Kerry outscored Roscomon six to two in the third quarter – Causeway's Paul McGrath continued his recent fine form with one of the scores. It was game over and despite Kerry beginning to run the bench they remained in near total control. Heffernan bagged a further two goals. Cian Hussey became a thorn in the Roscommon rearguard's side.
Only substitute Cathal Kenny and Fallon gave Kerry any pause for thought and even then it was only fleeting. About halfway through the half Kerry's Brendan O'Leary was sent off following a schmozzle. Roscommon's Aaron Donnelly was sent off for a second yellow card at the same time. It was a shame for O'Leary as he was having a fine game. His sending off didn't affect the flow of the game or threaten the Kingdom's victory, but it was still a blow to a fine young hurler.
It was a great win for Kerry and a delighted manager extolled virtues of the competion.
"The one thing I wouldn't say about this competition is to put it down," O'Shea noted.
"There's very good quality teams in it believe it or not. We had to work so hard against Meath and Kildare. These are serious teams. I don't care where they're coming from all you had to do was see the quality we played today and still we just had that bit of luck those two days and got out the gate in those two games. It's a very good competition.
"Tipperary just prove the point. They're in the A final tomorrow and we were drawn against them so it [playing in Munster compeititon] is not benefitting us.
"As I said and I hate repeating myself, the Under 14s, the Under 16s and the seniors and the Under 21s don't play A so it makes no sense to play us in the main competition."
It was, he agreed, a brilliant performance by his young charges.
"I knew what they could do. The biggest thing today was to keep their feet on the ground going into the game. To let them know that we didn't have the game won before the game. We've worked very hard. I got as much experience from other guys that I could. I gave them every opportunity. I didn't leave a stone unturned and that was proven there today. They went out and hurled the way they can hurl. I'll tell you today I was so happy they showed the people of Kerry what good hurlers they are and there's a good future ahead for a lot of them," he concluded. KERRY: Jason Wallace (Lixnaw), Tom McElligott (Crotta O'Neills), Colman Savage (Kilmoyley), Kevin Hanafin (St Brendans), David Goulding (0-1) (Ballyduff), Dougie Fitzell (Kilmoyley), Tommy Casey (Causeway), Daniel Collins (0-1) (Kilmoyley), Brendan O'Leary (0-1) (Abbeydorney), Michael O'Leary (0-2) (Abbeydorney), Thomas Casey (1-1) (Ballyheigue), Keith Carmody (0-2) (Causeway), Paul McGrath (0-1) (Causeway), Ricky Heffernan (3-6, 5f) (Lixnaw), Cian Hussey (0-2) (St Brendans) Subs: Paudie O'Connor (Kilmoyley) for T McElligott, Philip Lucid (Ballyheigue) for T Casey, Fionan Horgan (St Brendans) for P McGrath, John Godley (Kilmoyley) for T Casey, Daniel Carroll (Ballyduff) for K Carmody ROSCOMMON: Kevin Kellehan, Chris Duignan, Shane Naughton, Gerald McDermott, Paul Dolan, Cathal Dolan, Shane McCormack, Joe Brennan, Graham Hendrick, Tom Mullen, Aaron Donnelly, Gearoid Egan, Robbie Fallon (1-5, 4f), Liam Kilcline, Conor Mulry Subs: Cathal Kenny (0-2) for G Hendrick, Gavin Downey, Paul Joyce for G McDermott REFEREE: Shane Hourigan (Limerick)