Kingdom make light work of Mourne men to retain Cup
All Ireland U20 B HC Final: Kerry 3-22 Down 0-12
With the benefit of a strong first-half display, Kerry retained the Richie McElligott Cup in Navan last Saturday as the change in age to Under 20 mattered little in the overall context of the Cup named in honour of a Lixnaw man coming back to the Kingdom for the third straight year.
A sizeable band of supporters watching on, the addition of Donal O'Sullivan and Barry Mahony to the panel had its most telling effect on the scoreboard last Sunday with the Under 20 Footballers accounting for 3-7 of their county's eventual total.
O'Sullivan took only 40 seconds to put his name on the scoresheet before being provider to Michael Slattery for Kerry's second point but Gavin Dooley's input into both O'Sullivan's goals on the day was noticeable.
Kerry's first goal came off a turnover Dooley was vigilant to as his pass allowed O'Sullivan to finish in putting Kerry 1-2 to the good after only three and-a-half minutes. Slattery drew a good save from Conor McLornan to stop a further follow-up soon after as Kerry's sails began to rise.
Down did float some dangerous balls in at the other end however, but Kerry were able to deal with them as Slattery (free) and Mahony pointed before a long range free for Down's Ronan Blair finally got them on the scoreboard in the ninth minute.
The Mournemen brought the deficit back to four at one stage in the first-half but a disallowed second Kerry goal for a 'square ball' in the 15th minute was only the precursor to Kerry's actual second goal again a minute later as Dooley was the provider for O'Sullivan to make it 2-6 to 0-4.
Shane McElligott became the fourth Kerry player to register a score in the first period as Tadhg Brick did make a good clearance at the other end with Down searching for some inspiration.
The finish by Barry Mahony for his goal in the 29th minute arguably summed up the difference between the two sides on the day. The time, patience and composure he had to rifle home Kerry's third goal told a lot about the gulf in class as it stood at 3-13 to 0-8 at half-time.
Blair nearly got it for a goal before the break with Down's final point of the half, but his finish went over as opposed to under the posts with Conor McCrickard putting a further goal chance early in the second period wide of the goalmouth.
The second period in general was poor, not helped by the arrival of rain showers and a certain sense of inevitability about the result. Kerry's half-back line was the one constant strength throughout proceedings as Gearóid Fennessy, Evan Murphy and Conor O'Keeffe dictated so much of what went right for Kerry in their win.
Dan Goggin got forward from midfield for two points as Murphy along with Michael Lenihan and substitute Seamus O'Halloran were others to register points in a 19-point success.
Kilgarvan's O'Sullivan finished with 2-5 (1f) in getting the Man-of-the-Match honour and it speaks a lot to his talent that he can glide seeming seamlessly between hurling and football commitments. Blair finished with 0-7 (5f) for Down who will wonder if they might have been able to get a little closer without the addition of the footballers.
Kerry just appear so settled at this level it probably wouldn't have made a whole pile of difference as team captain Adam O'Sullivan had a nice audience for the presentation of the cup afterwards.
A debate will begin about where best for the set-up next year in possibly moving up a level to A or else holding fort here. The county could do with playing the Joe McDonagh Cup counties at this level you sense but it's probably part of a wider debate about creating sustainable and competitive structures in hurling.
Matters for another day as once the celebrations die down, thoughts will turn to the battle for Neilus Flynn in the county.
Kerry: Adam O'Sullivan (Crotta O'Neills); Liam Twomey (Kilgarvan), Tadhg Brick (Tralee Parnells), Bryan McAuliffe (Lixnaw); Gearóid Fennessy (Kilgarvan), Evan Murphy (Causeway, 0-1), Conor O'Keeffe (Lixnaw); Donal Hunt (Crotta O'Neills), Dan Goggin (Causeway, 0-2), Michael Lenihan (Dr Crokes, 0-1), Barry Mahony (Crotta O'Neills, 1-2), Gavin Dooley (Causeway); Donal 'Down' O'Sullivan (Kilgarvan, 2-5, 1f), Michael Slattery (Abbeydorney, 0-8, 7f), Shane McElligott (Lixnaw, 0-2) Subs: Declan O'Donoghue (Crotta O'Neills) for McElligott, Eamon Shanahan (do) for McAuliffe, Seán Sheehan (Causeway) for Hunt, Jack McKenna (Crotta O'Neills) for Mahony and Seamus O'Halloran (St Brendans, 0-1) for Slattery
Down: Conor McLornan; Michael McKey, Tom Murray, Aaron Dorrian; Ciaran Watson, Ruairí McCrickard, Niall McFarlane; Niall Fitzsimmons, Pheilm Savage; Joe Hanrahan, Conor McCrickard (0-1), Tim Prenter (0-2); Ronan Costello (0-1), Ronan Blair (0-7, 5f), Stuart Martin (0-1) Subs: Pearse Davidson for Hanrahan, Cathal Coulter for MacFarlane, Callum Smyth for McKey, Padraig Doran for Martin and Seán Campbell for Smyth
Referee: Chris Mooney (Down)
The game in 60 seconds
Evan Murphy was arguably a bit unfortunate to miss out on the official award, but Donal 'Down' O'Sullivan made sure he stood out on the pitch with a total of 2-5 accumulated. He has one further year in the Under 20 ranks, and it will be interesting when 2020 brings him in both codes.
The game was already heading Kerry's way prior to it's scoring but Barry Mahony's finish for his goal in the 29th minute was textbook stuff and something players at a higher level would get great plaudits for scoring had it been seen by a larger audience beyond Páirc Tailteann.
Noticeable that five of Kerry's starters in Navan were from outside the traditional North Kerry clubs in Kilgarvan (Liam Twomey, Gearóid Fennessy and Donal 'Down'), Tralee Parnells (Tadhg Brick) and Dr Crokes (Michael Lenihan). Good for the promotion of the game to the county at large as the next move for the Under 20 set-up in general will be pondered over the off-season.