Better late than never as minors seal final berth
IT took a long time for them to get going but when the Kerry Minors got a grip on proceedings in the second-half, defending All-Ireland Champions Mayo could not keep up with them as Jack O'Connor's side became the first Minor outfit from the county to make the decider since 2006.
In an error strewn first-half by both sides, only seven scores were registered with it taking 18 minutes before Killian Spillane finally put the Kingdom on the scoreboard. Mayo had scored the opening two points of the game but suffered a big blow when their captain Cian Hanley was withdrawn through injury five minutes before half-time. Kerry had numerous chances to get on the scoreboard before Spillane finally did so, the Templenoe player denied a great goal chance three minutes earlier with a goalbound shot cleared off the line.
Kerry had some moments of worry at the other end, Shane Ryan had to be decisive on a number of occasions, but the fare in general was poor in the first period as both teams appeared to struggle with the vast surrounds of Croke Park. Mark O'Connor scored Kerry's second point with a subsequent free for Spillane Kerry's only other first-half score as they trailed by 0-4 to 0-3 at half-time.
The introduction of Liam Carey gave Kerry a better sense of purpose and energy in the second period and Kerry went ahead for the first time six minutes into the second-half. Mayo picked up a black card when Conor Kilkenny was dismissed just prior to Kerry's goal. Michael Burns picked out Tomás Ó Sé with a great pass in the 41st minute and Ó Sé fisted into the net for a 1-7 to 0-5 advantage to Kerry. TJ Byrne caught the Kerry defence napping from the restart as he responded for Mayo with their goal, but it proved to be their last significant spark in proceedings.
Kerry could afford the luxury of a missed penalty in the 48th minute as Jordan Kiely stepped up to take the spot-kick after a foul on Tomás Ó Sé. The Dr Crokes player missed the opportunity to keep his fine goal scoring run going as he fired straight at Matthew Flanagan, but it didn't unnerve Kerry in any way. Ó Sé blazed over an opportunity for a second goal with nine minutes to go, but a sign of Kerry's resolve came in the 54th minute as goal keeper Shane Ryan stepped forward to slot over a free that put Kerry 1-12 to 1-7 in front. Killian Spillane finished with six points, Liam Carey scored three after coming off the bench as Mayo scored a consolation second goal prior to the finish as Byrne fisted a long free into the Kerry goalmouth to the net.
There might have been no comparison between Kerry's first and second-half displays, but Cormac Coffey was outstanding for the minors last Sunday as Micheal Burns, Carey and Spillane also stepped up when Kerry required some leadership in Croke Park. Dublin or Donegal will be the opposition for Kerry in the decider on Sunday September 21. There's still a bit to go yet, but this crop are now one step away from ending the long wait for the Tom Markham Cup on the 20th anniversary of the last success in 1994.
Kerry: Shane Ryan (Rathmore, 0-1, 1f), Dan O'Donoghue (Spa), Brian O Beaglaoich (An Gaeltacht), Tom O'Sullivan (Dingle), Brian Sugrue (Renard), Andrew Barry (Na Gaeil), Cormac Coffey (Kerins O'Rahillys), Barry O'Sullivan (Dingle), Mark O'Connor (do, 0-1), Matthew Flaherty (do, 0-1), Brian Rayle (Lispole), Micheal Burns (Dr Crokes, 0-1), Jordan Kiely (do), Killian Spillane (Templenoe, 0-6, 3f), Tomas O Se (An Ghaeltacht, 1-1) Subs: Liam Carey (Beaufort, 0-3) for Rayle, Liam Kearney (Spa) for Flaherty, Robert Wharton (Renard) for Sugrue, Stephen O'Sullivan (Templenoe) for Kiely and Ivan Parker (Churchill) for Spillane.
Mayo: Matthew Flanagan, Conor Kilkenny, Seamus Cunniffe, Eoin O'Donoghue, Jason Forkan, Barry Duffy, Sean Conlon, Gary Walsh, Matthew Ruane, Gary Boylan (0-4, 3f), Cian Hanley (0-1), Sharoize Akram, Fionan Duffy (0-1), TJ Byrne (2-0), Brian Reape (0-1) Subs: Liam Byrne for Hanley, Stephen Brennan for Kilkenny (Black Card), David Clarke for Forkan, Keith Hopkins for Ruane and Jack Reilly for Duffy.
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)