Kerry find spring in step
Allianz Football League Div 1
Kerry emerged triumphant from a spring examination at the Armagh Athletic Grounds that can only boost their confidence for the real tests that lie ahead in the summer.
Level at half-time, they drove on in the second half for two well-deserved league points plus the bonus of seeing stalwarts Paul Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan and Aidan O'Mahony make a big contribution when they came on as substitutes.
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor summed it up: "These are the tough battles that we want because these kind of days stand to you in the summer. They gave us a right game, and we survived a few hairy moments."
Armagh boss Paddy O'Rourke said: "We're disappointed. We felt if we could have kept the game close going into the last 10 minutes we could have won it, but we let them get away from us a bit.
"We needed the goal that would have carried us over the line but we didn't get it."
Armagh took a quarter of an hour to settle into the game, as Kerry swarmed forward from the start.
Two points by Kieran O'Leary and one by Bryan Sheehan from a free put the visitors 0-3 to 0-0 in front before Steven McDonnell opened Armagh's account from a free in the 15th minute.
Once Armagh found their range, they stepped up the pace and drew level at 0-3 each when Ciaran McKeever and Gareth Swift finished off a series of inter-passing movements with scores. And then midfielder Kieran Toner, set clear by a Kevin Dyas-Gareth Swift combination, broke through for Armagh's goal in the 20th minute.
Armagh's ploy of starting attacks from deep and breaking quickly was paying dividends, while Kerry were struggling to get support for Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy to threaten the Orchard County goal.
McDonnell had brought Armagh to 1-4 after 23 minutes before Cooper finally got on the scoresheet, catching a long ball by Darran O'Sullivan and scoring a trademark point for Kerry's fourth of the game.
Sheehan from a free brought Kerry to 0-5 shortly before the half-hour mark, and almost immediately Kerry sent on David Moran for Seamus Scanlon to shore up midfield.
A couple of big catches by Moran showed that was a good decision, and he played a part in the move that put Darran O'Sullivan clear on goal in the 31st minute.
O'Sullivan fired in a fierce shot, and Armagh goalie Phil McEvoy made a courageous diving save. Unfortunately he was injured in doing so, and after a couple of minutes treatment, had to be replaced by sub 'keeper John McCullagh.
The half ended with two injury-time points by Sheehan (free) and 'the Gooch' from a free, to leave the scores level at 1-4 to 0-7.
Whatever they put in the half-time cuppa certainly had both sides in flying form during a pulsating second half.
End-to-end passing movements, tough tackling, some fouls, a few yellow cards dished out -- all this bore testimony to a mental and physical battle with no effort spared by either side.
Scores were hard come by, with only two within the first eight minutes of the restart. Sheehan scored a free for Kerry, and Paul Duffy knocked one over for Armagh after 43 minutes.
And then came the 49th-minute double substitution which proved the ace up the Kerry sleeve -- Galvin and Declan O'Sullivan on for Sheehan and O'Leary.
Their presence added composure and strength to the visitors' effort, particularly Galvin, who stayed back and swept behind the midfield to help stem the Armagh multi-passing moves.
At the other end, O'Leary had added a point before leaving the field, and Anthony Maher notched another to leave the scores at Kerry 0-10, Armagh 1-5.
The game was in the balance until Kerry produced a hammer blow to the home team's hopes.
A Donnchadh Walsh-Donaghy-Declan O'Sullivan combo gave Darran O'Sullivan the opening for a well-taken 57th-minute goal.
Once Moran picked off a score from a free a minute later, Kerry had a six-point lead with 13 minutes to go.
Armagh fought hard as you would expect, and McDonnell racked up three points between the 61st and 64th minutes to reduce the lead to 1-12 to 1-8.
Kerry were not quitting, despite some heavy tackling, particularly on Cooper, by Armagh defenders, but neither were the hosts, as Paul Duffy proved by romping forward to score a 68th-minute point for which the ball dropped short and took a high bounce over the bar.
Moran put the final nail in the Armagh coffin to kill those briefly raised hopes with a late score from out near the sideline.
Man of the Match: Darran O'Sullivan (Kerry)
Scorers -- Kerry: B Sheehan 0-4 (4f), K O'Leary, C Cooper (1f) 0-3 each, Darran O'Sullivan 1-0, D Moran 0-2 (1f), A Maher 0-1. Armagh: S McDonnell 0-5 (3f), K Toner 1-0, P Duffy 0-2, C McKeever, G Swift 0-1 each.
Kerry -- T Mac an tSaoir 7; S Enright 7, K Young 7, T O'Sullivan 7; T O'Se 7, E Brosnan 7, B McGuire 7; S Scanlon 6, A Maher 7; Darran O'Sullivan 8, B Sheehan 7, D Walsh 7; C Cooper 7, K Donaghy 7, K O'Leary 7. Subs: D Moran 7for S Scanlon (29), Declan O'Sullivan 7 for Kieran O'Leary (51), P Galvin 7 for B Sheehan (51), A O'Mahony 6 for B McGuire (58), D Bohan 6 for E Brosnan (61).
Armagh -- P McEvoy 7; A Mallon 7, B Donaghy 7, F Moriarty 7; K Dyas 7, C McKeever 7 P Duffy7 ; K Toner 7, C Vernon7 ; G Swift 7, BJ Padden 7, M Mackin7; M O'Rourke 6, B Mallon 6, S McDonnell 7. Subs: J McCullagh7 for P McIvor (33), A Duffy 6 for R Grogan (44), D McKenna 6 for K Dyas (58), C Watters 6 for BJ Padden (60), J Murtagh for B Mallon (65).
Ref -- P McEnaney (Monaghan).