Guts deliver glory for the Kingdom's brilliant minors

All Ireland MFC Final: Kerry 0-21 Galway 1-14

Kerry captain Paul O'Shea lifts the Tom Markham Cup
Kerry captain Paul O'Shea lifts the Tom Markham Cup

Damian Stack

No guts, no glory as the saying goes.

Well if there's one thing this Kerry minor team has in abundance it's guts, it's character, it's the ability to think clearly under pressure, to respond to set-backs, to look within themselves for solutions, to not feel sorry for themselves when things don't go their way.

For a team this young to find themselves as far behind as they were early in the match and to be able to respond as well as they did is beyond impressive. It wasn't even so much the margin by which they trailed - seven points down after twenty five minutes - it was how poorly they were playing or conversely how well Galway were doing.

You'd think that would be demoralising and destabilising for a young team. Each Galway score, each turnover (forced and unforced and there quite were a few of those early on) a further blow to fragile confidence.

In the moments after Liam Judge's point on twenty five minutes, which made it a seven point game, it was much easier to imagine the game spiralling out of Kerry's control as for them to become masters of their own destiny, even knowing what they were able to do against Cork and Monaghan in this campaign.

Those were temporary and momentary crises in the Munster and All Ireland semi-finals. This was of a different magnitude entirely. The response though was exactly the same. Calm, composed, clinical and near instantaneous.

The point Judge scored was probably the most disappointing score Kerry gave away all afternoon. The Galway wing-forward had acres of space and he had so much time on the ball that he could afford to fumble and recover the possession before slotting over.

It was most unlike Kerry this past couple of seasons under Peter Keane and Tommy Griffin. Normally Kerry are right in the opposition's grill, touch tight and tigerish in the tackle.

If you had reason to doubt this Kerry team, this was the moment. The players never did doubt, however. They had no time for that, they had a game to win. Less than a minute after Judge's point Killian Falvey had the Kingdom back on the scoreboard.

Two minutes later and Darragh Rahilly - Kerry's stand-out first half performer - fisted over to make it a five point game. Rot stopped and in more ways than one. Kerry began around then to turn the tide around the middle third.

During Galway's purple patch - which delivered 1-5 without reply over a ten minute spell - Kerry could hardly get hold of the ball around the middle third, they lost four of their own kick-outs in-a-row and couldn't get anywhere near Galway's.

The Kingdom won the last two Galway restarts of the half and kicked the last two points to go in just four points down at the break - 0-8 to 1-9. Now that's what you call crisis management and the most impressive thing about it was that the players were able to do it themselves on the fly with minimal instructions from the sideline.

That late surge certainly made things easier for Peter Keane and co at the break. As ever the switches rung the management team were shrewd, simple and clear.

Kerry seemed much more aggressive after the break. Galway no longer got that time and space on the ball. In the middle third Kerry were much more forceful - they seemed to have more bodies in place to contest Galway at kick-out time - and much more alive to the breaks.

With Paul O'Shea leading the line, Kerry totally turned around the midfield situation from one half to the next. The result was that Kerry were on the march, the result was they had chances and with the forwards they had that was always going to tell.

Guys like Dylan Geaney and Michael Lenihan now had opportunity to give their talents fullest expression. Kerry started the second half with five unanswered to take the lead for the first time since they surged into a four points to one lead after nine minutes.

Galway did draw level again thanks to a Matthew Cooley free and went in front through Tomo Culhane on forty five minutes, but the Tribesmen never regained the initiative in quite the same way again.

The game remained in the melting pot until close to the end. Kerry edged clear again, only for Galway to peg them back. With five minutes to go it was still a level game - 0-16 to 1-13 - following Culhane's second point of the game.

The Tribesmen couldn't, however, live with the Kingdom down the back straight. A point from Paul Walsh - assist Darragh Lyne - was the first of three points in succession over just a little more than two minutes which all but delivered the title for the green and gold.

Falvey followed up with a second and then Walsh assisted the impactful Ruaidhrí Ó Beaglaoich to fire Kerry three clear into time added on. Galway got one back through Oisín Gormley and had at least one more chance to make a game of it again, but there was no denying Kerry their crown.

Not when they rounded out the game with another two points, a free from Jack Lenihan and a point form play by the hugely impressive Falvey to cap off one of the most remarkable turnarounds you're ever likely to see in an All Ireland final.

A famous win to claim a famous five in-a-row for the Kingdom at this level. It doesn't get much sweeter than that. Glory and guts, Kerry have them both.

Kerry: Marc Kelliher, Conor Flannery, Colm Moriarty, Owen Fitzgerald, Dan McCarthy (0-1), Dan Murphy, David Mangan, Paul O'Shea (0-2, 1f, 1 '45), Darragh Lyne, Darragh Rahilly (0-3), Patrick D'Arcy, Killian Falvey (0-4), Dylan Geaney (0-2), Paul Walsh (0-4, 1f), Michael Linnane (0-1) Subs: Ruaidhrí Ó Beaglaoich (0-3) for P D'Arcy, 41, Kieran O'Donoghue for D Mangan, 53, Jack Kennelly for M Lenihan, 54, Jack O'Connor (0-1f) for P Walsh, 62

Galway: Donie Halleran, Ethan Walsh, Seán Black, Cian Deane, Ryan Monaghan (0-1), Tony Gill (1-0), Cathal Sweeney, Paul Kelly (0-1), Conor Raftery (0-2), Liam Judge, Aidan Halloran, Seán Horkan, Eoghan Tinney (0-1), Daniel Cox, Matthew Cooley (0-5, 4f) Subs: Oisín McCormack for S Horkan, 38, Tomo Culhane (0-2) for D Cox, 44, Oisín Gormley (0-1) for A Halloran, 46, Conor Hallard for C Sweeney (inj), 50, Cian Hernon for L Judge, 54, Éanna McCormack for M Cooley, 63

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)

The Game in 60 seconds

Main man

There were many contenders on the Kerry team. Killian Falvey got the official man of the match award and played a brilliant role. Owen Fitzgerald and Dan Murphy were great at the back. At midfield Paul O'Shea was sensationally good, he won nine kick-outs, but in the end we've got to go with Darragh Rahilly. He won eight kick outs, including five in the first half when Kerry were struggling to get hold of ball and got three points from play. That's just an immense contribution from the young Rathmore man.

Talking point

The seeming endless composure of this Kerry minor team. Other teams would have buckled under the strain of being seven points down after twenty five minutes of an All Ireland final. Instead these guys rallied with a point from Killian Falvey on twenty five minutes and went in at half-time just four points down before pushing on for the second half

Key moment

It has to be Falvey's point just after Liam Judge sent the Tribesmen seven points clear. Had Kerry not regained some momentum at that stage of the game this one would have gotten away from them. Instead they regrouped and dominated the rest of the game.