Thursday 29 September 2016

Kerry hit cruise control to bring down Banner

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final: Kerry 2-16 Clare 0-11

Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30

Clare’s Cathal O’Connor, left, and Gary Brennan, hidden, battle for the high ball against Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy during yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Clare’s Cathal O’Connor, left, and Gary Brennan, hidden, battle for the high ball against Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy during yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

We've been here before, watching Kerry labour through championship matches without blowing anyone's hair back only for them to come good at the right time and go and win the thing.

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And every time it happens we make a silent vow never to fall for the same trick again.

Clare’s Pearse Lillis tussles for the ball with Kerry’s David Moran. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Clare’s Pearse Lillis tussles for the ball with Kerry’s David Moran. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

But whether Kerry are luring us into their trap again remains unclear.

No one is quite sure how well they are going but the blame for that hardly lies at Kerry's feet.

The vagaries of the draw has seen them play only Munster opposition to this point.

It didn't help either that they were even denied their annual grilling from Cork by a once-in-a-generation result from Tipperary.

Clare’s Joe Hayes leaves the field dejected. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Clare’s Joe Hayes leaves the field dejected. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Margins

And now they head into an All-Ireland semi-final on the back of winning margins that never went lower than double figures and all against teams who operated in division three in the spring.

One analysis of the numbers suggest Kerry have improved notably in the last couple of months. They conceded 17 points when they played Clare in the Munster semi-final and that number was reduced to 11 yesterday though Clare did fashion a number of goal chances that they should have been able to grab something from.

However, it would have made no difference to the end result.

Kieran Donaghy keeps a close eye on Podge Collins. Photo: Ray McManuas/Sportsfile
Kieran Donaghy keeps a close eye on Podge Collins. Photo: Ray McManuas/Sportsfile

Clare were able to live with Kerry for the first quarter and the sides were tied at three points apiece before the Kingdom grabbed the game's opening goal on 22 minutes.

Donnchadh Walsh volleyed to the net but only when the ball dropped to him after a very fortunate deflection off Paul Murphy's heel put him clear.

That score rocked Clare and they wouldn't raise another flag for 18 minutes. After that, Clare were playing a game of catch-up they could never win.

Kerry's experience was clear to see as they managed the next quarter of the game expertly.

They were quick to foul in the right areas of the pitch to make sure Clare wouldn't build up a head of steam though Pearse Lillis ended Clare's drought with what was the Banner's first point from play on the stroke of half-time. James O'Donoghue, who showed sparks of his talent at times, lofted over another free that saw Kerry lead by 1-8 to 0-4 at the break.

The second half needed some sort of rally from Clare but it never materialised. And it offered precious little in terms of entertainment.

Kerry's second goal on 41 minutes pushed them further out of reach. Darren O'Sullivan blasted high to the net after combining well with Paul Geaney and Stephen O'Brien. From there it was only a matter of how much Kerry would win by.

Clare would have chances of their own to score a goal into the Hill end but little would fall here way. Gary Brennan and Dean Ryan should have done better when they manufactured a sight of goal.

And Aidan O'Mahony cleared off the line after Brian Kelly didn't get enough on a ball dropping in his area.

Injury

Jamie Malone would hit the bar in injury time too when he might have been better served hand-passing across goal.

Despite the concession of a number of clear goal chances that might have been converted, Fitzmaurice insisted his defence had improved from when the sides met in Munster.

"I mean the concession rate was reduced. We rode our luck a bit a couple of times. But my impression overall was that the defence played well.

"I thought early on in the game and Clare were coming at us a bit, the lads at the back absorbed that well and they did well at the back."

The 14 wides Kerry kicked was a concern, however.

"It was high. Normally, we're good in that regard. Normally we're a bit more clinical.

"Again, it's something that we definitely have to tidy up between now and four weeks' time."

Banner manager Colm Collins had no qualms with the result, conceding his side have been comprehensively outplayed. Star men like Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor and David Tubridy couldn't exert anything like the same influence on this game as they had in their historic run to the last eight.

"You have to say that we didn't play well today, we played very poorly," admitted the Clare manager.

"I suppose you can look at that two ways, look at your own team or look at the quality of the opposition and whether you are allowed to play. We turned over ball, we didn't convert chances and were sloppy in a lot of ways.

Hiding

"Some players looked a little dead on their feet, for whatever reason. There is no hiding from it, the better team won and fair play to them, you are only as good as you are allowed play."

Collins suggested that being drawn to play against Kerry for the second time this summer might have knocked some of the hope out of his side.

"There was no reason not to have (energy). Obviously when you get beaten, the first thing people will talk about is that we had to play four weeks in a row.

"I don't think that was necessarily a factor, these lads are footballers, that what's they do, they love playing football.

"They love the light training sessions on the week of games.

"There was a big high after beating Roscommon and maybe there might have been a downer when it was discovered it was Kerry we were playing.

"I don't know. But it was not a good display by us but credit to Kerry, they absolutely deserved it today."

For Fitzmaurice, his side head home with a clear idea of the amount of work in front of them before their semi-final clash.

"From our point of view it was always going to be a tricky game. We needed to come up and we needed to have a professional attitude. Get in, get the job done and head down for Kerry again.

"There were aspects of our performance that were very good, there were other aspects that we were a bit off and were a bit rusty today. I suppose it's a game under our belt.

"We've plenty to work on over the next couple of weeks."

SCORERS - Kerry: J O'Donoghue 0-5 (2f); D O'Sullivan 1-2; D Walsh 1-1; P Geaney (1f), BJ Keane 0-3 each; S O'Brien, B Sheehan (1f) 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy (2f, 1 '45), E Cleary (4f) 0-4 each; P Burke, J Malone, P Lillis 0-1 each.

Kerry: B Kelly 6; B Ó Beaglaoích 7, M Griffin 7, S Enright 7; T Morley 6, K Young 7, P Crowley 7; K Donaghy 7, D Moran 7; D Walsh 7, D O'Sullivan 8, P Murphy 6; J O'Donoghue 7, P Geaney 7, S O'Brien 6. Subs: A O'Mahony 6 for Morley (BC 45), BJ Keane 8 for Walsh (45), A Maher 6 for Donaghy (47), B Sheehan 6 for Moran, M Ó Sé 6 for Crowley (both 53), T Brosnan for O'Donoghue (66).

Clare: J Hayes 7; S Hickey 6, K Hartnett 7, D Ryan 6; M McMahon 6, G Kelly 7, C O'Dea 6; G Brennan 6, C O'Connor 6; S Collins 6, P Collins 6, E Cleary 6; J Malone 7, D Tubridy 6, P Lillis 7. Subs: K Sexton 6 for O'Dea (ht), S McGrath 6 for Tubridy (47), E Coughlan 6 for O'Connor (50), P Burke 7 for Hickey (58), S Malone for Kelly (64).

REF: M Deegan (Laois).

Irish Independent

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