Thursday 20 June 2019

Kerry through after disappointing second half display in Ennis

Munster SFC Semi-Final: Clare 0-12 Kerry 1-15

Here we go again. With Kerry's victory over Clare on Saturday evening the traditional Munster final was confirmed and, while it's true Kerry will go into the game as overwhelming favourites, there was enough in the game in Ennis to give the Rebels a certain amount of hope.

On its face the Kingdom's victory over their hosts on Saturday evening was nothing at all out of the ordinary. They won comfortably enough. They never looked like being beaten and when they were good they were very, very good indeed.

Why then all the long faces amongst the Kerry faithful walking out of Cusack Park? Because when Kerry weren't good they were actually well below par, showing the same sorts of vulnerabilities and issues that dogged them in the league final at the end of March.

Midfield in trouble. Physically not quite at the races against a supremely well conditioned side. Increasingly unsure of what they were about the longer the game wore on, as their structure and game plan seemed to melt in the summer showers.

Kerry faded in the final quarter, outscored eight points to two over the final forty minutes (including a ten minute plus break in play for the serious injuries to Kevin Harnett and Seán O'Shea).

That's the thing which tends to stay in the mind, that's the thing which led to those long faces. It was all so different after the first half. At the break the Kerry support was positively purring after seeing their side play some beautifully intricate football. After fifteen minutes - without ever hitting the heights - Kerry were three clear against a Banner side struggling to put scores on the board, despite creating ample opportunities.

It took Clare seventeen minutes to get their opening score - a pointed free from David Tubridy - but it didn't really change their fortunes as Kerry pushed on, despite losing David Moran to a black card for a body check on Cian O'Dea sixteen minutes in. On thirty one minutes O'Donoghue played a beautiful ball to Clifford for the eighth point and then two minutes later - with an Eoin Cleary point for Clare in between - Clifford repaid the favour for O'Donoghue for a brilliantly executed goal.

Little wonder the Kerry crowd were enthused as their side went in at the break nine points clear - 1-9 to 0-3 - and when Kerry started the second half with another couple of points, both from the boot of Seán O'Shea, both from placed balls, it was hard to imagine a way back into the game from the Banner.

That it all went so badly wrong for Kerry in the second period - not helped by the dismissal of midfielder Mark Griffin - will give them plenty to work on, but should provide a glimmer of hope for the Rebels over the next couple of weeks.