Predictable defeat no real concern
Munster SHL Round 2: Kerry 1-10 Waterford 4-23
A somewhat predictable result in a game with nothing at stake, but, despite the sizeable gap in scoring terms at the conclusion of the contest there was still some positives as far as Kerry were concerned, especially for long periods of the first half.
While the second half was essentially one way traffic, the superior skill level and fitness levels of the visitors meant that they were, for the most part dictating matters in all facets of play, their ability to open up lanes of attack with some surging runs supported by runners from deep positions enabled them to create a litany of scoring opportunities from all angles and distances.
Players will always endeavour to impress a new management team, and this was evident from the outset with the visitors starting with real purpose, even if, in fairness to Kerry, they displayed a lot of resolve and resilience to soak up that early pressure.
Level on two points apiece after six minutes Waterford had opened up a four point lead 0-6 to 0-2 with 21 minutes having elapsed. However, in between they had been denied goals, once by the crossbar and by the first of many fine saves from the Kerry goalkeeper Martin Stackpoole.
Certainly there was no lack of effort or expertise on the part of Kerry, even if they lacked vision and creativity on occasion with a few needless and wayward deliveries, especially into their inside line.
Shane Conway from placed balls was the scorer in chief, and a penalty after a foul on Michael Slattery, awarded after consultation with the umpires, was duly converted by Shane Conway which narrowed the gap to just 1-5 to 0-10 in the 33rd minute. Kerry retired for the interval break just three points adrift 1-5 to 0-11 which was a pretty fair reflection of their efforts throughout the opening period of play.
Restarting the second half with an extra spring in their step Waterford added three unanswered points within as many minutes of the restart after Martin Stackpoole had denied substitute Dessie Hutchinson with another brilliant save, thereby denying a goal at his near post.
However, a goal eventually arrived in the forty second minute when Calum Lyons up in support of his attack finished to the Kerry net at the end of some enterprising link up play. Eight points in front, 1-14 to 1-6,
Waterford had all of the momentum in their favour at this juncture and, while Kerry's application never wavered one bit they were struggling to contain a Waterford side which was by this stage operating in a higher gear.
Their dominance continued throughout all of the final quarter as they added to their spiralling tally of scores. Twenty-seven wides, with Kerry shooting 14 of those on a day when 22 points separated the teams on the scoreboard.
Given the favourable conditions for this time of year it was a good work out for Kerry against quality opposition. Just how much one reads into the result in respect of either side depends on what one considers the relevance of this particular competition in terms of the objectives and ambitions of both in the season ahead.
Pluses and minuses I would think, but in the overall scheme of things there's going to be a different line up, and, shape to it when Kerry begin their league campaign on Saturday, January 25 against Mayo in McHale Park in round one of Division 2A.
Injuries and unavailability meant that Kerry lined out without as many as maybe five or six starters last weekend. At full strength they will have a lot more options especially off the bench, so while at the moment there's a bit of uncertainty surrounding their start up to the season, largely in relation to who will be fully fit and available, just like most other counties, there was enough to suggest in this particular game that there's a good attitude in relation to the players approach and application to proceedings.
They came up against a better conditioned, and technically a more accomplished Waterford combination who under the stewardship of Liam Cahill look as if they have already set out to atone for the disappointment of last year's championship campaign.
Certainly, despite the impact made by Laois last season, the step up to join the elite looks to be pretty sizeable at the moment, and for Kerry there's a big challenge ahead for them if they are to realise their aspirations and fulfil their ambitions at their particular level of competition.
However, this particular result won't in any way define their season, and, at full strength with the proper level of preparation they should be suitably equipped to challenge on both fronts.
Kerry: Martin Stackpoole, Sean Weir, Bryan Murphy, Eric Leen, Conor O Keeffe, Mikey Boyle, Evan Murphy, Sean Sheehan, Shane Nolan, Michael Leane (0-1), Fionan Mackessy, Colum Harty, Jordan Conway (0-1), Shane Conway 1-8 (0-7f, 1-0 pen), Michael Slattery Subs: Donal Hunt for E Leen (blood), Eric Leen for D Hunt, Donal Hunt for E Leen, Declan O'Donoghue for S Nolan, Darragh Shanahan for E Murphy, Brandon Barrett for C Harty, Pádraig Boyle for M Slattery
Waterford: Shaun O Brien, Shane Fives, Conor Prunty, Shane Mc Nulty, Calum Lyons (1-1), Kieran Power (0-1), Jordan Henley, Mark O'Brien (0-2), Austin Gleeson 0-4 (2f), Tom Barron, Darragh Lyons (1-0), Neil Montgomery (0-3), Shane Ryan (0-1), Stephen Bennett 1-9 (0-3 '65', 0-5f) Colin Dunford (0-1) Subs: Dessie Hutchinson (1-1) for S Ryan, Conor Gleeson for J Henley, Peter Hogan for C Dunford, Mikey Kearney for T Barron, Stephen Roche for N Montgomery
Referee: Rory McGann (Clare)
The game in 60 seconds
Obviously all of the main contenders wore a Waterford jersey, but as far as Kerry were concerned, Mikey Boyle and Shane Conway, as always, made important contributions at opposite ends of the pitch. Jordan Conway, intermittently in the first half, was seen to good effect, while Michael Leane, in particular, showed up quite well at different stages. However, despite being beaten on four occasions Martin Stackpoole was probably Kerry's best player.
Shane Conway's goal late in the first half looked at the time as if it might provide the platform for a sustained challenge from Kerry. However, Waterford's scoring surge early in the second half essentially put paid to any hopes of a win against the odds by the home side. Just five points still separated the teams after 40 minutes, but Waterford's first goal from their wing back Calum Lyons essentially put the final result completely beyond doubt.
When teams adopt a running game playing the ball through the hand a lot, such is the pace being injected into the play that the rule regarding steps is being transgressed on more than a few occasions. This was certainly the case as far as Waterford were concerned last Sunday. Two of their goals, if referred to VAR, would most likely have been ruled out. Granted, it's difficult to officiate, but it's a recurring theme in hurling at the moment, which it seems is not being addressed as it should be.