Cooper runs riot for 'men against boys'
THE flame of desire burns as brightly as ever in the heart of Kerry football as was evident by yesterday's drubbing of Galway at Pearse Park.
One win from three previous games and laments for the loss of such talent as Tommy Walsh suggested Kerry would be relegation fodder. Instead, Jack O'Connor's team, with strong contributions from the substitutes, made mincemeat of the Tribesmen.
"Boys against men," was Galway manager Joe Kernan's rueful summing up of his team's second-half performance against a Kerry side who danced their way, virtually at will, through the harried and hassled Tribesmen. Galway won the first half, 1-5 to 0-6, but boy did they lose the second half in devastating manner.
Colm 'Gooch' Cooper was the executioner-in-chief, contributing 1-4 of his overall 1-7 total after half time, but he was ably abetted by virtually all his team-mates as they upped their game to a level which Galway couldn't match.
The result puts Galway into a battle for survival in the top flight, but that's the least of their worries after losing the impressive Michael Meehan to injury in the first half. Sadly, Meehan suffered a knee ligament injury in jumping to score Galway's goal in the 20th minute.
The big man was Galway's biggest threat while he was in the game and, apart from a second-minute point by Diarmuid Blake, Meehan got all of Galway's first-half scores. He had notched up four points -- three from frees and one from a '45 -- when he jumped high to hit home a goal from a superbly angled high ball sent in by Gary Sice.
Meehan tipped the ball in as he was challenged by Tom O'Sullivan and Kerry goalie Brendan Kealy but fell awkwardly as the three men hit the deck. He had to be helped off and was on crutches afterwards.
Meehan will have an MRI scan today to ascertain the extent of the damage. It's a ligament strain at least, and Joe Kernan hopes it's not cruciate damage.
"We won't know that until he gets an MRI, but Michael's injury is nearly worse than the result because it's another class player out for a while," said Kernan.
Cillian De Paor replaced Meehan and at that stage Galway lead by 1-5 to 0-4. The Kerry scorers at that point were Cooper with three points from frees and young David O'Callaghan, from the St Patrick's club in Blennerville, outside Tralee.
Declan O'Sullivan and O'Callaghan got another point each as the game wended its scrappy way towards half time.
Referee Michael Duffy had shown yellow cards to seven players -- four from Mayo and three from Kerry -- in that first half, and went on to made it 10 (six to Galway, four to Kerry) by the finish. It was far from a dirty game but Duffy pounced on transgressions with an eagerness that made us wonder how long it would be before the red was brandished.
Was he too fussy? Well, amazingly, nobody got the second yellow and the teams finished with their full complement, so the referee didn't find himself involved in any game-changing situation.
What did change the game was Kerry's attitude and determination right from the throw-in at the start of that second half. Having wind advantage possibly helped, but the outcome depended far more on the drive and ambition of the Kerry players.
O'Callaghan scored a point within 35 seconds of the re-start and when O'Sullivan drove forward to rifle home a goal in the 41st minute, making the score 1-7 to 1-5 in Kerry's favour, the writing was on the wall for Galway.
Kieran Donaghy didn't score but he was central to everything that worked for Kerry.
Galway full-back Finian Hanley can be pleased that he held Donaghy scoreless, but the problem was that Cooper, O'Sullivan, O'Callaghan, David Moran and Kieran O'Leary were rampant up front.
Typical of their play was Kerry's second goal in the 51st minute. Donaghy got the ball into O'Leary at left corner-forward; the way seemed blocked but O'Leary wriggled free and made for goal from near the end line.
Cooper, he of the wily football nous, stepped back into space, collected the ball and, despite pressure from a flailing defender, calmly slotted the ball neatly into the net.
Deceptively simple, but so very effective, and it was then double scores with Kerry at 2-10 and Galway 1-5.
Game over. It was just a question of by how many Kerry would win, particularly when manager O'Connor brought on Bryan Sheehan, Darran O'Sullivan and Anthony Maher in a 54th-minute triple substitution.
Sheehan went on to score three points in his 12 minutes on the field, including the last score of the game in the final minute.
Galway kept fighting, though it was a lost cause, and young midfielder Paul Conroy got three points and Fiachra Breathnach one to complete Galway's scoring.
Kerry manager O'Connor told his men at half-time that they needed to get the ball in quicker to the forwards, and they carried out his instructions admirably.
"We just wanted to get the ball in quicker because we know we have the stuff up front if we get it in, but it was very lateral and slow and laborious in the first half," he said.
"Training never lies. Declan O'Sullivan was going really well in training on Wednesday night and I just had the feeling that he would cut loose today and he scored a great goal.
"That gave everyone the confidence to play after that. Once we got ahead we drove on but you would have to say that Meehan was a massive loss to Galway.
"He is a great player and it was very unfortunate. It would the equivalent to us losing Donaghy."
Scorers -- Kerry: C Cooper 1-7 (0-5f), Declan O'Sullivan 1-1, D O'Callaghan, B Sheehan (0-1f) 0-3 each, A Maher, A O'Connell 0-1 each. Galway: M Meehan 1-4 (0-3f, 0-1 '45), P Conroy 0-3, D Blake, F Breathnach 0-1.
Kerry -- B Kealy; P Reidy, M O'Se, T O'Sullivan; A O'Connnell, A O'Mahony, T Griffin; S Scanlon, M Quirke; D O'Callaghan, D O'Sullivan, D Moran; C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary. Subs: Darran O'Sullivan for Scanlon (54), B Sheehan for O'Leary (54), A Maher for O'Callaghan (54), G O'Driscoll for Quirke (65), P O'Connor for Declan O'Sullivan (66).
Galway -- E O'Conghaile; D O'Neill, F Hanley, D Burke; G O'Donnell, D Blake, D Reilly; B Cullinane, P Conroy; G Sice, J Bergin, N Coleman; M Meehan, N Joyce, M Clancy. Subs: C de Paor for M Meehan (22), F Breathnach for Coleman (41), D Meehan for Reilly (45), D Cummins for Clancy (58).
REF -- M Duffy (Sligo).