Sheehan blow sours Kingdom's fightback
AN injury to new Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan marred the All-Ireland champions' first competitive game of 2010, when they had to stage a dramatic late fightback to deny Waterford in this quarter-final clash, played at the Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney yesterday.
Sheehan was carried off the field late in the game and has been told that he will be out for anything from four to six weeks.
As a result, he looks certain to miss the opening rounds of the NFL, which means that he won't lead out Kerry for their glamour league opener against Dublin on February 7 or away to Cork a week later after an X-ray on his ankle revealed that he damaged ligaments.
This is a huge blow to the St Mary's clubman, who indicated after his club won the South Kerry Championship, thus affording him the honour of skippering Kerry in 2010, that his main aim this spring was to nail down a starting place on the team after an indifferent 2009.
Now it appears certain that it will be his friend and team-mate Killian Young who will lead out the All-Ireland champions against Dublin in three weeks' time when the Kingdom open their defence of the NFL title.
Kerry needed two late Kieran Donaghy goals to see off the challenge of Waterford, who were gifted a goal late in the first half and two more within minutes of resuming in the second half.
Trailing by two points with just minutes to go, Donaghy caught a high pass just outside the Waterford square, and turning swiftly, the 'Star' fired home to send Kerry into the lead.
Just over a minute later, he punched a Sheehan point-attempt into the back of the net, as he twisted in mid-air like a falcon, and swooped to guarantee Kerry's place in the semi-final of the Munster competition, against Tipperary and John Evans on Sunday next.
Fielding a relatively strong team (only Adrian O'Connell survived the previous day's win over IT Tralee) that included the likes of Aidan O'Mahony, Young, Seamus Scanlon, Tommy Griffin, David Moran as well as Sheehan and Donaghy, it was still no surprise to see Kerry struggle for large patches.
At one stage in the first half, they led 0-6 to 0-1 as Sheehan (0-3), Scanlon, Donaghy and Kieran O'Leary were all on target but Waterford, thanks to a fortuitous goal from Tom Grey in the 28th minute, saw the visitors back on level terms at the break, 0-6 to 1-3.
Two early Waterford goals in the second half handed the visitors a six-point lead -- the first from Conor McGrath and the second a penalty from Michael Donnelly -- and suddenly at 3-3 to 0-6 clear the distress signals were starting. However Kerry chipped away at that lead -- mainly through the accuracy of Sheehan, who finished with 0-6 -- but the shock looked on until Donaghy's late double won the game for the Kingdom.
However the Sheehan injury soured the Kingdom's impressive recovery.
Scorers -- Kerry: K Donaghy 2-2, B Sheehan 0-6 (0-3fs), K O'Leary 0-2, S Scanlon and J O'Donoghue 0-1 each.
Waterford: M Donnelly 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), T Grey, C McGrath 1-0 each, B Wall 0-2 (0-2f), JJ Hutchinson 0-1.
Kerry -- G Reidy; P Reidy, T Griffin, A O'Connell; K Young, A O'Mahony, M Corridan; S Scanlon, D Moran; J O'Connor, B Sheehan, D Walsh; K O'Leary, K Donaghy, P O'Connor. Subs: BJ Keane for Moran, A O'Sullivan for O'Connell, James O'Donoghue for J O'Connor, P Corridan for O'Leary, K O'Leary for Walsh.
Waterford -- T Wall; J Walsh, Maurice O'Gorman, J Phelan; T Grey, S Briggs, P Ogle; M Ahearne, Michael O'Gorman; W Hennessy, C McGrath, B Wall; M Donnelly, R Ahearne, S Cunningham. Subs: T O'Gorman for M Ahearne, JJ Hutchinson for W Hennessy, B Phelan for Michael O'Gorman.
Ref -- D O'Mahony (Tipperary).