Kerry a bridge too far for brave Reds
Minor All-Ireland Championship Q-Final: Kerry 1-22 Louth 2-9
In one way the Kerry Minors were arguably damned if they did and damned if they didn't in Portlaoise last Saturday, while Louth's focus was on drawing a line under their disappointing showing against Dublin in the Leinster final.
From that point of view, Wayne Kierans' charges achieved what they set out to do as they did themselves justice without ever looking like pulling off what would have been a major upset.
For Kerry, it was win convincingly and have extra praise and more expectation to deal with in advance of returning to Croke Park, or just scrape by and have massive questions raised about their worth.
Their 10-point win last Saturday fell somewhere between both stools. Although they never looked like losing, they were opened up on a number of occasions by the Reds and that will give some cause for concern about their defending.
The Kingdom looked comfortable early on. Granted, some of their passing wasn't coming off as intended, but there was much to admire about the thought in looking for the incisive passes to open up the Wee County defence.
Donnachadh O'Sullivan finished off a great counter-attack in the eighth minute for their goal and a 1-3 to 0-0 lead.
A rout might have been expected from there, but credit to Louth for not letting an awful start affect them as they trailed by 1-7 to 0-1 after the opening quarter.
Brian Friel looked a lot more effective in the centre-forward role on Saturday, but the way Louth managed to get through the Kerry defence for their first goal suggested some of the Kerry defence were already thinking about the half-time break.
John Gallagher and Ciaran Keenan combined from a free, with the latter getting far too much time to turn and shoot past Deividas Uosis for a scoreline of 1-11 to 1-5 at half-time.
Kerry did start the second half well, with David Clifford curling over a fine effort as part of his nine-point total. However, even though Conor Morgan was black-carded for Louth, the Reds went through the Kerry defence with too much ease again in the 39th minute.
Morgan's replacement Conor Nicholson was put through and he managed to find the onrushing Eoghan Callaghan who made the scoreline look a little more interesting at 1-14 to 2-6.
While Kerry were never really in danger of losing, it was important that they showed a bit of conviction in responding to such as a setback and in Fiachra Clifford they had a workhorse who managed to put over two points before the finish.
Michael Slattery made the use of his opportunity from the bench in slotting over a score as well, with Kerry's midfield of Barry Mahony and Diarmuid O'Connor pretty steady throughout.
Chris O'Donoghue and Niall Donohoe were the pick of a Kerry defence that left itself with some areas for improvement ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final with Cavan, not least in trying to stop sides running through them like Louth did at times in Portlaoise.
While Kerry felt that Gallagher and Keenan posed the only significant threat in the Louth ranks, Kerry will be concerned about what a more potent forward line might do with some of the gaps that were exploited.
There are times that you can become a victim of your success in terms of the expectations about how Kerry minor sides should perform, with each and every success of their now 22 match-winning streak stretching back to 2014.
Saturday might be no bad thing in reminding some of the players that they still have a bit to go in their hopes of replicating the recent Tommy Markham Cup winning sides.
Louth can take some solace from giving a very good account of themselves against top-quality opposition.
Kerry: Deividas Uosis; Sean O'Leary, Chris O'Donoghue, Cian Gammell; Michael Potts, Eddie Horan, Niall Donohoe 0-1; Barry Mahony, Diarmuid O'Connor; Adam Donoghue, David Clifford 0-9 (3f), Donal O'Sullivan (0-3, 1f); Fiachra Clifford 0-2, Donnachadh O'Sullivan 1-1, Brian Friel 0-5 (1f). Subs: Dylan Casey for O'Leary, Patrick Warren for Donoghue, Ryan O'Neill for Horan, Michael Slattery 0-1 for Donal O'Sullivan, Ciaran O'Reilly (for Donnachadh O'Sullivan and Michael O'Leary for Potts.
Louth: Alan McGauley; Alan Connor, Dean McGreehan, Dan Corcoran; Leonard Grey, Nicky Browne, James O'Reilly; Liam Jackson, Conor Morgan; Gerry Garland, Conor Gillespie, Eoghan Callaghan (1-0); Ben Mooney, Ciaran Keenan (1-3, 2f), John Gallagher (0-6, 4f). Subs: Conor Nicholson for Morgan (Black Card), Fergal Malone for Gillespie, Jack Murphy for Browne, Shane Hickey for Garland and Keelan O'Neill for Mooney
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).