Clifford on song as minor marvels signal intent
Kerry 2-26 Kildare 0-10, All-Ireland MFC Semi-final
Kildare minor manager Brendan Hackett was unequivocal afterwards. The Kerry team that had just dismantled his side were, he said, the best he had seen at the grade. And by quite some distance too.
There are any number of stats that can be dug up to show just how good Kerry were. 2-23 from play. 12 different scorers, including four defenders, as Kerry maintained their course towards a third All-Ireland title at the grade on the bounce.
Kildare's underage system has been showing provincial promise of late. They have now contested four Leinster finals on the bounce, winning three. But Kerry were, quite simply, awesome.
"Yes, by a long way (its the best performance from minor team he has seen)," Hackett said ruefully. "They were very fit, technically they were really good, you could see it in their foot-passing, their catching and score-taking."
By the time the final whistle sounded, Kildare's bright start seemed a distant memory. On 11 minutes, they led by 0-4 to 0-2 and looked to be comfortable operating at Kerry's level with inside forwards Ciaran Kelly and Jimmy Hyland getting some joy early on.
But as the half wore on, the Kingdom started to get on top. There were flashes of class from the highly-rated David Clifford. The Fossa younster has been mentioned in the same breath as Maurice Fitzgerald and he oozed class as Kerry eased into a 0-11 to 0-7 lead at the break.
Any in-depth analysis of the second half seems a pointless exercise. Three quick-fire points after the restart saw them move into a double-score lead and there was no coming back from there for the Lilies. Kerry were already ten points clear when they bagged their first goal.
Clifford gathered a long delivery and fed captain Sean O'Shea who calmly rolled to the net past Luke Mullins. The scores would keep coming for Kerry in the second half but Kildare would manage just three points in the same period.
Clifford finished the day with eight points to his name and the man of the match award but he had plenty of help. O'Shea and David Shaw were in good form along with Mike Breen and others.
Kerry manager Peter Keane declared himself pleased with the performance afterwards but was unhappy with the number of chances missed in the first half.
"The big factor for us in the first half was - we were happy in how we were playing but we had 20 opportunities and only kicked 11," he said.
"We've a nice bit of work done. They are good players and they brought their 'A' game and we were happy with that. But we have nothing won, it's only a semi-final to win to get to a final."
Kerry move into a final against Galway with the county looking to secure a third All-Ireland minor title on the bounce, to go with the three successive All-Ireland colleges' titles the county has also secured.
"These fellas aren't looking for three in a row. They want to win an All-Ireland. This team wants to make its own history and will hopefully in three weeks' time. What happened two years ago or a year ago is irrelevant to those fellas."
Scorers - Kerry: D Clifford 0-8 (2f), D Shaw 1-3, S O'Shea 0-5 (1f), D O'Connor 1-1, D Moynihan 0-2, N Collins, G O'Sullivan, M Potts, M Foley, M Breen, F O'Brien, C Linnane 0-1 each.
Kildare: C Kelly 0-3 (2f), J Hyland 0-2 (1f), J Robinson, P Woodgate, C Costigan, K Foley, D O'Sullivan 0-1 each.
Kerry - B Courtney; D Naughton, N Collins, G O'Sullivan; M Potts, D O'Brien, M Foley; M Breen, M Ryan; D Moynihan, S O'Shea, D O'Connor; D Clifford, D Shaw, B Sweeney
Subs: C Linnane for Moynihan (44), C Teahan for Sweeney (49), F O'Brien for Shaw (55), S Okunbar for Ryan (58), K Dwyer for Collins, S O Luing (both 59).
Kildare - L Mullins; J O'Toole, M Dempsey, D O'Sullivan; T Archbold, J Gibbons, S Doran; D Marnell, A Masterson; J Robinson, P Woodgate, C Costigan; C Kelly, B McLoughlin, J Hyland.
Subs: K Foley for Woodgate, M Barrett for Archbold (both 35), S Kavanagh for B McLoughlin, D Kelly for Costigan (both 42), J Burke for Marnell (47), N Murphy for Robinson (52).
Ref - M McNally (Monaghan)