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O'Connor impressed with new faces as Kerry advance

While this semi-final meeting was slow to get going, there was enough bite in the second half to satisfy both Jack O'Connor and Kerry-born Tipperary manager John Evans.

However, the Kingdom's one-point win will have little bearing when the sides lock horns in the Munster Championship in May.

Both managers are still tinkering with their teams. Kerry started with only four of their XV from the All-Ireland final.

The search for Diarmuid Murphy's successor goes on, as O'Connor used his third keeper in as many games -- but former minor and U-21 netminder Brendan Kealy impressed his boss.

"Brendan did well and his kick-outs were good," said O'Connor. "We'll experiment a bit during the League as we did last year; at the end of the League or coming towards the latter stage, we should have it sorted."

O'Connor was delighted with the win and the way some of the younger players have taken their chance.

"Tipp were very committed and very fit and it was a fine competitive game," he said. "We showed resolve in coming back to win. It was great that the two young fellas, James O'Donoghue and Barry John Keane, were involved in the point that levelled it.

"We are just looking for good attitude at this time of the year. Players are training very hard so they are bound to be sluggish."

One of the main talking points of the game was the mark -- Micheal Quirke managed seven for the hour, which appears to be a record.

"Micheal catches a lot of ball and he was particularly good today," added O'Connor. "The mark certainly has possibilities, but overall the rules were not a big issue today."

The first quarter was poor as Quirke and Seamus Scanlon ruled the roost at midfield but the distribution and passing by both sides was unimpressive -- typical January fare.

Stephen Hahessy's fifth-minute free for Tipp was the only score of the opening quarter, but once Kieran O'Leary levelled, the Kingdom took over.

However, despite two points each from Paul O'Connor and Declan O'Sullivan, and further scores from Scanlon and Donnacha Walsh, they wasted lots of possession, with Kieran Donaghy having a frustrating day at the edge of the square.

A Conor Sweeney free and a fine Barry Grogan effort from play was Tipp's only reply as Kerry led 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time.

Paul Galvin came on for the second half but looked rusty as Tipperary, with a Seamus Grogan brace and a couple of Sweeney frees, closed the gap to a point 0-7 to 0-6 after five minutes.

Kerry upped their game, with Padraig Reidy, Tommy Griffin and Aidan O'Mahony solid at the back, and points from Scanlon, Maurice Corridan and O'Connor pushed them four clear with just 15 minutes left.

However, Tipperary refused to give up and two Sweeney frees were followed by a well-taken George Hannigan goal in the 55th minute to give Tipp the lead at 1-9 to 0-11.

Then Kerry dug deep. Keane combined with O'Donoghue to kick the equaliser and then in the final minute a Donaghy ground pass was picked up by Walsh who kicked the winning point.

Kerry will now play UCC in the McGrath Cup final next weekend -- but UCC have a big Sigerson game on Wednesday before that.

Scorers -- Kerry: P O'Connor 0-4 ( 0-3fs), S Scanlon, D Walsh and Declan O'Sullivan 0-2 each, K O'Leary (0-1f), M Corridan, B J Keane 0-1 each. Tipperary: C Sweeney 0-4 (0-4fs), G Hannigan 1-0, S Grogan 0-2, S Hahessy (0-1f), B Grogan, A Rockett 0-1 each.

Kerry -- B Kealy; P Reidy, T Griffin, A O'Connell; M Corridan, A O'Mahony, K Young; S Scanlon, M Quirke; D Walsh, Declan O'Sullivan, B Looney; K O'Leary, K Donaghy, P O'Connor.

Subs: P Galvin for B Looney (h-t), J O'Donoghue for K O'Leary (50 mins), B J Keane for D O'Sullivan (50 mins), Alan O'Sullivan for S Scanlon (58 mins).

Tipperary -- P Fitzgerald; C Morrissey, N Curran, A Morrissey; C McGrath, R Costigan, C Aylward; G Hannigan, C Dillon; S Carey, S Hahessy, P Acheson; C Sweeney, B Coen, B Grogan. Subs: A Rockett for C Dillon (28 mins), S Grogan for S Hahessy (h-t), J Cagney for S Carey (39 mins), H Coghlan for C McGrath (50 mins), E Kearney for P Acheson (58 mins).

Ref -- M Collins (Cork).

Irish Independent

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