Tuesday 23 January 2018

Royals fall to the Kingdom

Kerry 2-19 Meath 1-14

Sean Wall

Kerry completed a double over North East opposition when their juniors won the All-Ireland title for the 18th time at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, last Saturday.

Meath were attempting to bridge a 14-year gap and capture their sixth crown, but they were always playing catch-up against a slick and sharper Kingdom outfit who laid down a marker right from the opening whistle.

The eight-point difference at the final whistle was probably a fair reflection on proceedings throughout, although Meath were left to lament one or two good goal chances which they failed to convert.

Overall the Royals performed as well as they were allowed by a Kerry side that possessed all the aces and played some delightful football at times.

Apart from the outcome, what was disappointing from a Meath viewpoint was that Kerry probably had the top 10 footballers on view. There was also very little consolation for senior manager Andy McEntee as few of the Meath players performed well enough to suggest that they have what it takes to step up to senior level in the short term.

St Colmcille's duo Ben Brennan and James Conlon led from the front for Meath, contributing 10 points between them. Three of Brennan's six came from play and he also converted two '45s in what was his most impressive display of the campaign.

All of Conlon's four points came from play and the corner forward, who interrupted a family holiday, made an immediate impression when introduced to the action after 19 minutes. Conlon was originally named in the starting line-up but was replaced before the throw-in by Oldcastle's Jason Scully.

Scully was called ashore for Conlon but was reintroduced in the closing stages.

Both Kerry goals were of the soft variety, but overall the Meath rearguard had no answer to the Kingdom's lethal full forward line of captain Killian Spillane, Conor Cox and Tomás Ó Sé.

Between them this trio 'terrorised' the Meath defence throughout, contributing 2-13 of their side's tally. Full forward Cox top-scored with an impressive 1-8, with three of the points coming from placed balls. Templenoe club man Spillane, son of former senior star Tom, hit three points, while Ó Sé scored 1-2.

Brennan and Conlon were the only ones to play up to form in the Meath attack. Captain Daire Rowe opened his side's account and subsequently set up a number of scores, but he struggled to find anything close to his best form and was substituted before the finish.

Another Meath sub, Sean Reilly, also showed plenty of promise and might have been introduced much earlier than the final quarter. The Moylagh youngster saw plenty of ball and accounted for his side's goal, a really fine effort in added time. Damien Healy and David Toner worked tirelessly in defence, but Adam Flanagan and Conor Farrell were always struggling to cope with Kerry's midfield pair of Brendan O'Sullivan and Roibéard Ó Sé.

Kerry started the game at lightning pace, immediately putting Meath on the back foot, and the game was less than 20 seconds old when centre back Pa Kilkenny forged forward to hit the opening score.

Meath were unable to get the ball out of their own half during those opening passages and Tomás Ó Sé shot Kerry's second point on three minutes. Spillane then added another after Cox had blasted an effort straight at Meath keeper Johnny Lynch.

Daire Rowe eventually lifted the siege with his side's opening score, but by the seventh minute Kerry had eased themselves into a 0-5 to 0-1 advantage.

Just when Meath had worked themselves back into contention following points from Willie Carry and Ben Brennan, Kerry struck for their opening goal. It was a score that shouldn't have happened as keeper Johnny Lynch took a very short kickout which was picked up but not gathered safely by David Toner and the Curraha man was dispossessed by Cox who finished expertly to the net.

That score on 14 minutes left Meath facing a real uphill battle, but they responded with a Brennan pointed free before Cox responded at the other end to restore Kerry's five-point advantage.

Meath then spurned two goal chances in the space of four minutes. First midfielder Adam Flanagan was presented with an opportunity, but his effort was blocked by Pa Kilkenny at the expense of a '45 which Brennan converted. An even clearer chance fell to Neil Shortall and this time keeper Tomás Mac an tSaoir got down to make a smart block and Brennan once more obliged from the resultant '45. The deficit was cut to two points after a fine score from Kevin Ross, but Kerry rallied to score the last two points of the half and led 1-8 to 0-7 at the break.

Within four minutes of the second half that lead had stretched to six points and Meath's title hopes were slowly slipping away.

Points from Brennan and Conlon offered a glimmer of hope, but Kerry tightened their grip on proceedings in a five-minute spell during which they added a goal and three points to lead 2-13 to 0-9 by the 44th minute.

The goal which put paid to Meath's slim hopes came from the fist of Ó Sé who finished to an unguarded net after Johnny Lynch had come off his line to contest a Philip O'Connor delivery.

Conlon landed three further points for Meath, while Brennan and centre back Damien Healy were also on target, but seven points was the closest Meath got after that.

Substitute Stephen Coogan was denied a goal by keeper Mac An tSaoir before Sean Reilly eventually found a way through in added time.

At that stage, though, it was a consolation score and Kerry had Eánna Ó Conchúir red-carded before captain Spillane round off a fine display with a delightful point.

KERRY: Tomás Mac An tSaoir; Eamon Kiely, Jack McGuire, Brian Sugrue; James Walsh, Pa Kilkenny 0-1, Daniel O'Brien; Roibéard Ó Sé, Brendan O'Sullivan; Philip O'Connor 0-3, Jeff O'Donoghue, Eánna Ó Conchúir 0-1; Killian Spillane 0-3, Conor Cox 1-8 (3f), Tomás Ó Sé 1-2. Subs: Liam Carey for O'Donoghue (38), Michael Foley for Kilkenny (51), Stephen O'Sullivan for Cox (57), Ivan Parker 0-1 for B O'Sullivan (58), PJ MacLaímh for Walsh (59), DJ Murphy for Kiely (60).

MEATH: Johnny Lynch; Adam Lynch, Luke Moran, Michael Flood; David Toner, Damien Healy 0-1, Willie Carry 0-1; Adam Flanagan, Conor Farrell; Neil Shortall, Kevin Ross 0-1, Cathal McConnell; Jason Scully, Daire Rowe 0-1, Ben Brennan 0-6 (2 '45s, 1f). Subs: James Conlon 0-4 for Scully (19), Stephen Coogan for Ross (41), Sean Reilly 1-0 for Farrell (46), Ciaran O'Rourke for Carry (48), Conor Moriarty for Shortall (52), Jason Scully for Rowe (58).

REFEREE: John Hickey (Carlow).

Drogheda Independent

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