O'Connor joy as gritty Kerry get off the mark
NFL Division 1
Kerry collected their first brace of points yesterday at Austin Stack Park, where they staged a stirring second-half fightback to defeat a Derry side who had not won in the league on Kerry soil since November 1993.
Derry dominated the first half against a listless Kerry side who were extremely fortunate to only trail by three points at the interval, with the Ulster side kicking 11 first-half wides.
Derry were dominant at midfield, where Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley won plenty of possession, but their forwards just could not get their radar right, despite playing with a stiff wind.
Kerry were in trouble in their full-back line, where both Tommy Griffin and Tom O'Sullivan were struggling against Paddy and Eoin Bradley. Kieran Donaghy was one of the few pluses for Kerry as he appeared to have the beating of Kevin McCloy but the supply he got was poor in the extreme.
Jack O'Connor was pleased with the win. "It was important to get a win on the board and it validates what we are doing in training," he said. "While I would say that relegation is still a live possibility, at least we are off the mark, and we can build on that."
O'Connor agreed that Kerry struggled early on and believes that the strength of the panel helped to fashion this win. "Young Kieran O'Leary came in, and contributed in the last 10 minutes. I'm just glad that we got through, as it would have been a tough prospect heading to play Galway without any points."
Paddy Bradley opened the scoring with a second-minute pointed free while Eoin Bradley doubled the visitors' lead in the ninth minute. Declan O'Sullivan was moved to wing-forward, where he made a difference to the Kingdom and they enjoyed their best spell from the 12th to the 15th minutes when hitting four unanswered points.
Derry hit back within three minutes when Patsy Bradley's high ball was not dealt with by the Kerry defence and Eoin Bradley shot to the Kerry net.
Colm Cooper and Paddy Bradley swapped frees as Derry took over. However, they had kicked eight wides by the 25th minute and Kerry were still very much in the game, 1-4 to 0-5.
Cooper, from another free, completed Kerry's first-half total in the 26th minute as Derry, with points from wing-back Gerard O'Kane and a sublime long-range effort from Fergal Doherty, went in 1-6 to 0-6 in front at the interval.
However, Derry should scored a goal on the stroke of half-time when Fergal Doherty took advantage of a Tommy Griffin howler, but his bullet-like drive was brilliantly tipped against the crossbar by Brendan Kealy.
Kerry took remedial action for the second half to try and steady their full-back line with Marc O Se coming in for an out-of-sorts Tommy Griffin, and it worked as the Kingdom upped the tempo.
Kerry outscored Derry 0-9 to 0-3 in the second half and with the wide count being five to four in their favour, Kerry used the wind much better than their rivals. David Moran became a major player for Kerry, kicking three second-half points. Micheal Quirke caught some vital ball at midfield and the introduction of Anthony Maher for a subdued Seamus Scanlon also made a difference.
However, after Paddy Bradley scored a soft free, when it looked like Seamus Scanlon was fouled in the 45th minute, Derry capitulated. Kerry took over and hit six unanswered points, three from Cooper frees, two from a fired-up Moran and another from Declan O'Sullivan that secured Kerry's first league points.
Team captain Brian Sheehan came on and converted a late free and Kerry boss O'Connor added: "It gives us a boost now and lifts the morale and we are facing another tough game again next week above in Salthill and it was important that we were going up there with a couple of points."
Scorers -- Kerry: C Cooper 0-5 (0-5f), D Moran, K Donaghy 0-3 each, B Sheehan (0-1f), K Young, D O'Callaghan, Declan O'Sullivan 0-1 each. Derry: Paddy Bradley 0-5 (0-5f), E Bradley 1-1, G O'Kane, F Doherty, B Mullan 0-1 each.
Kerry -- B Kealy; P Reidy, T Griffin, T O'Sullivan; A O'Connell, A O'Mahony, K Young; S Scanlon, M Quirke; D O'Callaghan, D Moran, Darran O'Sullivan; C Cooper, K Donaghy, Declan O'Sullivan. Subs: M O Se for T Griffin (h-t), A Maher for S Scanlon (47), B Sheehan for Darran O'Sullivan (54), K O'Leary for D O'Callaghan (58).
Derry -- B Gillis; M McGoldrick, K McCloy, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, G O' Kane; Patsy Bradley, F Doherty; A Mc Laughlin, B McGuigan, B Mullan; Paddy Bradley, E Bradley, R Wilkinson. Subs: M Dunne for B Gillis (26), S Leo McGoldrick for C Kielt (56), J Kielt for B Mc Guigan (62), J Diver for a McLoughlin (64).
Ref -- G Kineavey (Galway).