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Kerry leak goal chances but amble on to familiar semi juncture


Kerry’s Johnny Buckley is tackled by Galway’s Gary O’Donnell during their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kerry’s Johnny Buckley is tackled by Galway’s Gary O’Donnell during their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Kerry’s Johnny Buckley is tackled by Galway’s Gary O’Donnell during their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Nobody does quarter-finals quite like Kerry.

And by that we mean: nobody wins last-eight showdowns that are eminently forgettable, end in a comprehensive margin, and yet throw open the suggestion that there's something not quite right.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has been down this road before - several times - so it's conceivable he won't be overly concerned by the ramshackle defending that facilitated Galway's creation of four clear goal chances.

As it turned out, Brian Kelly's razor reflexes and last-ditch blocking by his defenders ensured a clean sheet.

Meanwhile, at the far end, the prospect of a grandstand finish had looked unlikely from the moment Kieran Donaghy struck the game's only goal, after 13 minutes - the most glaring evidence of Kerry going straight for the Galway jugular by attacking their famously porous full-back line via aerial bombardment. But more of Star's game-breaking first half later ...

"Any day you win an All-Ireland quarter-final by eight points and you're still in the championship and going into a semi-final, you have to be happy," Fitzmaurice began.

"There were aspects of our performance, patches where we didn't play well and periods as well when we were very sloppy. Overall, look, it's job done. If you had asked me this morning would I have taken an eight-point win, I'd have said 'Absolutely'."

The Kerry boss won't know who's next for another week; but whoever emerges from next Monday's Mayo/Roscommon replay is bound to go in as the underdog on August 20.

For all that, Kerry must try and avoid the periods of indolence, and defensive looseness, that took the sheen off yesterday's victory.

The good news for Fitzmaurice? Kerry's semi-final recent semi-final performances usually have no correlation to how they ambled through the quarter-final gate.

"I think we were a bit lethargic today," he surmised. "We weren't as sharp as we have been in other games this year. We were sloppy at times. We gave up a good few goal opportunities."

That pattern was established as early as the fourth minute, when Michael Daly's sublime pass released Ian Burke behind the Kerry cover.

But while his shot lacked nothing in venom, its height and proximity gave Kelly a chance to divert it over the bar.

Their defence may have started raggedly enough but Kerry quickly found their attacking groove, with Paul Geaney's early brace edging them 0-4 to 0-2 clear.

Enter Donaghy. It stemmed from Kerry's first overtly aerial assault: the veteran full-forward soared to gather David Moran's raking delivery, then turned inside two defenders to bury a left-footed shot.

David Walsh had been parachuted in at full-back but it proved something of a nightmare introduction. Two minutes later, Donaghy plucked another 'bomb' from the sky, this time delivered by Peter Crowley, and eschewed a possible second goal by fisting over.

And Kerry's next score stemmed from another Donaghy catch and a foul (by Walsh) yielding a tap-over James O'Donoghue free.

And yet Kerry still kept giving Galway a sniff. They were reliant on Fionn Fitzgerald's goal-line block to deny Damien Comer, who had run straight through after gathering a long kickout.

At least Burke pointed in the follow-up, and added his fourth from play soon after, all of which meant Kerry led by 1-10 to 0-8 at the midpoint.

Galway began the second half with a renewed pep; but another close-range pop at goal from Comer was blocked and then a tap-over Seán Armstrong free was followed by a goal chance for Armstrong.

But the veteran's angled drive was repelled by the flying Kelly. With that, you sensed, Galway's goose was cooked ... even if Kerry took their time to put the game beyond all doubt.

Kelly and Donaghy apart, the winners had eye-catching performers in Paul Murphy, who used the licence of his sweeper role to consistently hurt Galway on the counter; and restored skipper Johnny Buckley, who kicked two points while winning a succession of second half kickouts.

The recently on-fire O'Donoghue was far less influential and was replaced after 48 minutes. "He had a knock a week ago but he was fine to play here," Fitzmaurice reported. "He'll come bouncing back again next week."

For Galway, though, it's the end of a rollercoaster summer road.

"Goals create momentum and that showed against Donegal," Kevin Walsh reflected. "If we got one or two them today it would have allowed us to ask the question to see where we were, but it wasn't to be."