Forward-thinking Ó Sé holds key for Kingdom
KERRY 3-15 CLARE 0-8 IT was never going to be anything like the massacre of Milltown Malbay 21 years ago. However, once Kerry hit top gear they took Clare apart in the second half to claim their 66th Munster title at a sun-splashed Limerick Gaelic Grounds yesterday.
This was not a game which sent the blood gushing through the veins with Clare always having to dig deep to muster a meaningful challenge before they ran out of steam and fell to pieces in the last 20 minutes.
Then Kerry found their rhythm and started to play with an assured confidence which made them masters of their domain yet again.
In the circumstances it's difficult to have reservations about a team which finishes like a train and wins going away by 16 points.
But immediate impressions are that Kerry will have to show improvement if they hope to repeat their All-Ireland victory of three years ago and that would be the verdict of many of their supporters among the 23,176 crowd.
Clare came into the game on the back of 125 training sessions and two championship victories under Tommy Curtin but they were often outclassed.
Barely a player in the saffron and blue measured up to the demands of the occasion and Clare were outgunned as Kerry grew in confidence after a shaky start.
Once they had put that spell behind them the Kingdom began to show a more positive side to their game, capitalising on a dreadful defensive mistake by Clare to get their first goal before dismantling their opponents with some great forward play during the last 25 minutes.
That came after another period of unconvincing play from Páidí Ó Sé's men when during the opening minutes of the second half Clare made a bit of a comeback.
For once Clare seemed to lack passion and that sense of conviction which marked their shock victory of '92. And once they fell behind for the second time after 16 minutes there was no way back as the gulf between the two teams was clearly noticeable.
That narrow one-point lead was subsequently extended to four, five and then six and, with Kerry still not at full stretch, it was painfully obvious that Clare just did not have the ammunition to muster anything like a worthwhile fightback.
They might have had a penalty when Martin Daly appeared to be dragged down in the square but John Bannon was not impressed and the ball was cleared to safety.
That was one of the few occasions that Daly was involved in a genuine attacking move in what was one of the poorest performances ever from the Lissycasey stalwart before he was eventually replaced 15 minutes from the end.
Daly was not the only failure for Clare as their attack was not alone short on method but when they won possession they either overplayed the ball or kicked it long in search of a break.
But those hopes were dashed right from the beginning by another masterful performance at full-back by Seamus Moynihan, who cut out two dangerous situations before Clare knew what had happened. Moynihan then survived an obviously dodgy hamstring with some typically elegant play.
Around him Killian Burns, Michael McCarthy and Tom O'Sullivan were particularly impressive, always getting in their tackles in a decisive and determined way.
But it was a midfield that Kerry had their real star with Darragh Ó Sé giving a spectacular performance of fielding from first to last whistle.
This was the best performance from Ó Sé since the '97 All-Ireland final, not just in his high fielding but with his work rate and distribution which saw him set up several scores.
Up front, Kerry had three lethal weapons in the shape of Dara Ó Cinnéide at full-forward, Aodhán MacGearailt on the right wing and Johnny Crowley in the left corner as they shared in a spectacular 2-10 total.
Ó Cinnéide caused problems galore for Brian Considine from the beginning, Crowley set up the all-important first goal and finished another to the net himself, while MacGearailt was just about unbeatable after the break and ran non-stop at the Clare defence, crashing to the net from Donal Daly's inch perfect cross.
Liam Hassett, Noel Kennelly and Mike Frank Russell also contributed and were part of a most impressive forward line which got better and better with Maurice Fitzgerald coming on to the cheers of the crowd and setting up his team's third goal after a lovely cross-field ball to Russell.
It was not until the last quarter that the Clare defence eventually tired after some tireless work and brave efforts on the part of Padraig Gallagher, Conor Whelan, Mark O'Connell and Ronan Slattery while Joe Considine and David Russell, when switched there, never gave up in their quest to get matters moving from midfield.
The Banner self-destructed for Kerry's first goal after 27 minutes when Brian Considine's side-line kick went through Mark O'Connell's hand with Crowley pouncing. His shot was saved by James Hanrahan but an alert Hassett was on hand to finish to the net despite the brave efforts of Whelan.
Kerry's 1-7 to 0-3 interval lead probably flattered them a little and Clare fans had reason to feel a sense of optimism when Ger Keane with two frees and Peadar McMahon made it 1-9 to 0-7 within 12 minutes of the resumption.
However, it was 23 minutes before Clare raised another flag while Kerry's pace and greater skill saw them mount a succession of attacks, many of them coming from Darragh Ó Sé, with goals from MacGearailt and Crowley rubbing salt into Banner wounds.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Darragh Ó Sé (Kerry).
SCORERS - Kerry: A MacGearailt, J Crowley 1-3 each, L Hassett 1-1, D O Cinnéide 0-4 (2f), MF Russell (2f), N Kennelly (1f) 0-2 each. Clare: G Keane 0-4 (2f), D Russell, P McMahon 0-2 each.
KERRY - D O'Keeffe; K Burns, S Moynihan, M McCarthy; T Ó Sé, E Fitzmaurice, T O'Sullivan; D Ó Sé, D Daly; A MacGearailt, L Hassett, N Kennelly; MF Russell, D Ó Cinnéide, J Crowley. Subs: M Hassett for Moynihan 48 mins, M Fitzgerald for Ó Cinnéide 57 mins, D O'Dwyer for L Hassett 49 mins, E Galvin for Kennelly 64 mins, T Griffin for T Ó Sé 65 mins.
CLARE - J Hanrahan; P Gallagher, B Considine, C Whelan; B Keating, M O'Connell, R Slattery; D O'Sullivan, J Considine; D O'Driscoll, M Daly, G Keane; P McMahon, D Russell, B McMahon. Subs: J Daly for M Daly 55 mins, D Molohan for O'Sullivan 55 mins.
REF - J Bannon (Longford).