Kerry hand out a mauling to disappointing Banner side

Munster SFC semi-final: Kerry 0-32 Clare 0-10

Kerry’s David Clifford in action against Clare in Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Fossa teenager was one of nine Kerry players who made their debut. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Kerry’s David Clifford in action against Clare in Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Fossa teenager was one of nine Kerry players who made their debut. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Damian Stack

With a performance like that you just have to take it on its merits.

The trouble is figuring out what those merits are. Was the drubbing Kerry handed out more a reflection on the poverty of Clare's resistance or of the brilliance - or at least the potential brilliance - of this young Kerry side?

Our instinct is to lean towards the latter rather than the former. If the Banner were poor it was because Kerry made them so. To dismiss how well the Kingdom played because the Banner weren't up to scratch is to miss the point.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice handed out seven debuts on Sunday afternoon and instead of giving a somewhat nervous performance against a gnarled Clare side, as might have been expected, these young footballers cut loose in glorious fashion.

There was an energy and a freshness and a verve to Kerry's football in Fitzgerald Stadium that we've not seen in a while. A slickness too. The lines of running, the inter-play between the players were silky smooth.

Sure enough it's easier to do that against a shell-shocked team - as Clare were - than it will be against some of the bigger fish in this championship, but there was precious little more that Kerry could have done than what they did at the weekend.

This was a victory up there with the famous Milltown massacre in 1979, which Kerry won against Clare by thirty six points. That day Kerry scored thirty times (9-21), this time Kerry raised a flag two times more. That's not nothing.

Of course, we're not for a moment comparing this Kerry team with that Kerry team - it's way, way too early for that for obvious reasons - we're merely making the point that this victory was out of the norm.

Even in previous years when Kerry have won comfortably enough against the Banner, it was never devastating like this. It's rare that the Kingdom team will hammer a team quite like this.

It's become routine for Dublin to do so in Leinster, but even as Kerry racked up five Munster titles in-a-row maulings like this one were rare (Kerry beat Waterford 4-21 to 1-4 in 2013 admittedly). The last time Kerry won comparatively big was against Kildare in the 2015 All Ireland quarter-final.

In one way Sunday felt like a statement of intent, a warning shot across the bows of the rest of the country, in another it felt routine. There was nothing too dramatic about the way Kerry pulled away from Clare in the second quarter.

After reeling in Clare's early advantage - points from Éoin Cleary (a free) and Pearse Lillis - Kerry simply stretched their legs and left the Banner for dead. Nine points unanswered between the seventeenth and the thirty fourth minutes fired Kerry thirteen clear (0-16 to 0-3).

A pointed free from Cleary just before half-time brought it back to a twelve point game at the break - 0-16 to 0-4 - but by then this race was done. In a way the fact Kerry opened that advantage without much shock and awe, just consistent excellence, is what makes it so impressive.

Fitzmaurice's men were hugely efficient. Kerry's rate of return on chances created was above seventy five percent by the end of the game as the second half followed a very similar pattern to the first.

Clare started well enough with two early points by Jamie Malone - sandwiched by a Stephen O'Brien effort - before Kerry again assumed near total control over proceedings and continued to stretch clear.

Even with Kerry running their bench they kept up a relentless pace - matching their first half total in the second half - with four of Kerry's six subs getting on the scoreboard, including Barry John Keane who bagged a rapid-fire hat-trick.

There was very little to find fault with in how Kerry performed. It was as close as you can get to the perfect day at this time of year. Down town after the match the fans were purring in their approval.

It's easy to see why.

Kerry: Shane Murphy, Jason Foley, Peter Crowley, Ronan Shanahan, Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White, David Moran, Jack Barry (0-1), Micheál Burns (0-2), Seán O'Shea (0-7, 4f, 1 '45), Stephen O'Brien (0-3), David Clifford (0-2, 1f), Paul Geaney (0-7, 1f), James O'Donoghue (0-4, 2f) Subs: Mikey Geaney (0-1) for M Burns, 45, Barry John Keane (0-3) for J O'Donoghue, 51, Anthony Maher (0-1) for D Moran, 56, Brian Ó Beaglaoich for R Shanahan, 56, Darran O'Sullivan (0-1f) for D Clifford, 59, Kieran Donaghy for S O'Shea, 63

Clare: Eamonn Tubridy, Gordon Kelly, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins, Cian O'Dea, Aaron Fitzgerald, Pearse Lillis (0-1), Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor, Kieran Malone, Eoin Cleary (0-5, 4f), Jamie Malone (0-2), Conal Ó hÁinféin, Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy (0-2, 1f) Subs: Gearóid O'Brien for K Malone, 44, Eimhín Courtney for D Tubridy, 50, Gavin Cooney for Sexton, 56, Eanna O'Connor for C Ó hÁinféin, 58, Conor Finucane for C O'Dea, 66

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

The game in 60 seconds

Main man

A really difficult one this. You could easily go for any of five or six players. Seán O'Shea and Micheál Burns made brilliantly assured debuts, while guys like Paul Murphy and Paul Geaney played to their usual high standard. On this occasion though we might just go for Stephen O'Brien, scored three from play and terrorised Clare consistently with the trademark dip of his shoulder.

Talking Point

Are Kerry that good or are Clare that bad? That was the big discussion post-match. People were stuck halfway between praising Kerry to the hilt for a dominant display and saying that Clare were just desperately poor. They were but Kerry's brilliance shouldn't be underestimated.

Key moment

There really wasn't one. Kerry were so comfortable in this game right from the off.