On-fire O'Donoghue a true royal in Kingdom
Kerry 1-20 Galway 2-10 - All-Ireland SFC quarter-final
Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30
James O'Donoghue has started 10 championship games for Kerry. In another five since his debut in 2011, he has come on as a substitute. But it feels like he has been around forever. He has the air of one who has been around forever.
So far he has illuminated an otherwise nondescript football championship. Strip out the collective magnificence of Dublin – and some isolated pockets of competitiveness in Ulster in Croke Park this weekend – and the landmarks for 2014 are few and far between so far.
O'Donoghue has been the shining light. Kerry, by their manager's admission afterwards, may not have "hit the heights" of the Munster final win against Cork, but their prolific forward soared as close as he could get.
Another 1-5 to add to the 0-10 that brought the curtains down on Pairc Ui Chaoimh four weeks earlier is the work of a young man oozing confidence, thriving in responsibility and embellishing the ideal that there are always great forwards in the county, regardless of underage success.
You could never downplay the absence of such a luminary as Colm Cooper, but so far Kerry have done a fine job disguising it. Imagine a second season with 'Gooch' pulling strings at centre-forward and O'Donoghue and Geaney inside!
Perhaps a more seasoned defence like Mayo will find it easier to close him out the next day, but, for now, Kerry will be happy with the very steady progress made.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice's second season is not yet complete, but already his term has a successful look about it in the circumstances.
Of course, he won't look at it that way himself. All-Ireland semi-finals have never been their barometer in Kerry, but through a period of transition, that has been sometimes difficult, they have scarcely broken step on the important days.
Fitzmaurice was keen to impress how they weren't the "finished article" yet, but their composure in response to Galway's peaks in this All-Ireland quarter-final were the sign of a maturing team, comfortable with their game.
After establishing an eight-point lead with an unanswered 1-5 in the opening 17 minutes, they were pegged back to two points twice in the second half, but each time there was a firm response.
They were troubled consistently by the hard running of Shane Walsh and particularly Michael Lundy across the Galway half-forward line, while Anthony Maher and David Moran had to dig deep to eventually wrestle some control of the airways from Fiontan O Curraoin and Thomas Flynn.
But, in Geaney and O'Donoghue, they had the winning ticket, supplemented by reserves that almost all made a telling impact, especially Barry John Keane, who kicked three points in the last 15 minutes to push them clear.
Galway can reflect on a season of progress, but they have conceded 8-46 in their last three championship matches, which is far too much at this level and their sequence of failing to win a game in Croke Park since their 2001 All-Ireland triumph continues.
Their 15 wides reflected a quantity of possession, but the economy of their play could never match Kerry who scored with every attack in the opening quarter.
They scored 1-18 of their 1-20 total from play and registered just two first-half wides on their way to a 1-8 to 1-3 lead.
In contrast, shot selection from Galway was poor and a dearth of patience was quite evident, especially in the opening period when they hit five wides before eventually scoring through Lundy on 19 minutes.
Galway's full-back line was always under pressure; Donal O'Neill was tasked with tracking O'Donoghue before Finian Hanley took over the unenviable duty. Neither could claim much success.
For a while they had the luxury of a sweeper sitting in front of them, but even that couldn't curtail Kerry's ability to hit their inside men.
Kerry lost Bryan Sheehan, such an influence against Cork, with a hip injury after five minutes.
David Moran came on and won plenty of ball, while Donnchadh Walsh's status as their gold plated domestique was further enhanced.
O'Donoghue served early notice of intent in the opening minute when he found Walsh for the opening score, but made his decisive move on 12 minutes when Johnny Buckley placed him and his instinct to take on O'Neill took him past the corner back and in sight of goal in an instant.
The finish was sublime and when he followed up with a point for a 1-4 to 0-0 lead within two minutes, Galway's fears about a hammering were heightened.
That they didn't concede any further ground from then on was a credit to them and when Michael Geaney was stripped of possession on 31 minutes, it sparked the move that led to Flynn rushing 70 metres to score a cracking goal with his left foot and close the gap to four, 1-7 to 1-3.
For a spell in the third quarter Kerry threatened with even greater menace. The lead stretched to seven at one stage, but Gareth Bradshaw and Walsh points were split by a Michael Lundy goal.
But Geaney was able to lift the siege with two subsequent points and might have had a 49th minute goal, but for a smart save from 'keeper Thomas Healy.
O'Donoghue could have had a second goal five minutes later, but his shot curled just wide.
When Walsh closed it to three points with a free on 62 minutes the response was composed with Moran claiming two kick-outs to trigger points for Keane and O'Donoghue to make the game safe.
The improvements that Kerry can make are almost exclusively in defence. The manner in which Flynn and Lundy got behind the defence for both goals is an obvious area for concern.
For Galway there is optimism that they are getting places. Their manager Alan Mulholland described it as a "slow burn" afterwards. Bradshaw and Paul Varley gave them thrust from defence while their midfield partnership is beginning to flourish.
But until they adopt a better strategy for defence they will continue to exist on the periphery of the top teams.
Scorers: Kerry: J O'Donoghue 1-5, P Geaney 0-4 (1f), BJ Keane 0-3, D Walsh, J Buckley (f) 0-2 each, D Moran, K O'Leary, Declan O'Sullivan, M Geaney 0-1 each. Galway: S Walsh 0-5 (3fs), M Lundy 1-1, T Flynn 1-0, G Bradshaw 0-2, D Comer, P Conroy 0-1 each.
Kerry: B Kelly 7; S Enright 7, F Fitzgerald 8, M O Se 7; A O'Mahony 6, P Murphy 7, K Young 6; A Maher 7, B Sheehan; M Geaney 6, J Buckley 6, D Walsh 8; P Geaney 8, Declan O'Sullivan 6, J O'Donoghue 9. Subs: D Moran 8 for Sheehan (5), P Crowley 7 for O'Mahony (45), Darran O'Sullivan 6 for O'Sullivan (51), BJ Keane 8 for Buckley (55), K O'Leary 6 for Walsh (58), M Griffin for O Se (65).
Galway: T Healy 7; D O'Neill 5, F Hanley 6, J Moore 5; G Bradshaw 8, G O'Donnell 6, P Varley 7; F O Curraoin 7, T Flynn 8; M Lundy 8, S Walsh 8, J O'Brien 5; M Martin 7, P Conroy 5, D Cummins 5. Subs: S Armstrong 6 for Cummins (ht), D Comer 7 for O'Brien (ht), K Kelly 6 for Moore (48), E Hoare 6 for Martin (55), C Mulryan for Varley (66).
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).
Kerry v Galway: the game at a glance
Man of the match
James O'Donoghue (Kerry): O'Donoghue can dust down the tuxedo in preparation for a second successive All Star award as he put himself into Footballer of the Year territory with another really classy and prolific attacking display. Everything this man touches is turning to gold. Another 1-5 here to add to the 0-10 against Cork. Plays football with a smile on his face.
Two successive kick-outs won by David Moran between the 62nd and 63rd minutes to create points for Barry John Keane and James O'Donoghue put Kerry five clear and killed this game once and for all.
O'Donoghue's range of movement and accuracy seems an obvious starting point for any conversation. Maybe against a tighter defensive structure the deluge of scores will slow, but, for now, he is lighting up this championship. Kerry's bench worked well and they were largely calm during their trouble spots. Galway will be reasonably pleased with a creditable performance, though 8-46 in three games is too much to concede.
Rarely a shortage when Kerry and Galway play. Thomas Flynn's goal from a 75-metre run supplants James O'Donoghue's earlier goal for Kerry or Shane Walsh's second half point off his left foot.
Eddie Kinsella started well, had a few wobbles towards the end of the first half, but was generally on top of things. Kerry-Galway games don't generally test the man in the middle.
What they said
Eamonn Fitzmaurice (Kerry manager): "We probably didn't hit the heights today, but I was delighted with the lads' attitude and the way they dug in when there were certain parts of the game when we were under pressure."
Alan Mulholland (Galway manager): "People say we haven't won since 2001, but we've played bugger all here since 2001 either. We need to come back here on a regular basis and get used to this place. We talked about it after the Connacht final, getting used to playing in big games. Unfortunately, in the last number of years, Galway haven't played in big, big matches against Division 1 opposition too much."
Kerry 7 (2)
Galway 15 (10)
Kerry 18 (10)
Galway 16 (6)
Kerry 1 (Michael Geaney 64)
Galway 1 (Paul Conroy)
Kerry meet Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday, August 24; Galway must plan for further resurgence in 2015.