Sunday 18 February 2018

Revenge for Kerry as Dubs fail to fire on opening night

KERRY 1-14 DUBLIN 0-11


MINUTES before this Allianz league opener began the Kerry squad and management lined up to applaud All-Ireland champions Dublin onto the pitch.

You could almost see their gritted teeth from the stands as they clapped their opponents by, probably lamenting one last time the dramatic September final that they let slip away.

But this was a new beginning for the Munster men and, of course, a chance to avoid a fourth competitive beating in a row at the hands of the Dubs. Inspired by Darran O'Sullivan, Paul Galvin and Bryan Sheehan they took that chance.

It took them some time to finally get a foothold, however.

They owned much of this game but the dominant feature of the first half was their rustiness in front of posts, with particularly loose shooting from the flanks and a number of misses from free-taker Sheehan. They had 10 wides in the opening period and 16 in total.

But tough-tackling Dublin were not much better; they didn't enjoy half the possession but nonetheless clocked up eight wides. Having racked up 30 training sessions in January they are clearly still bogged down in heavy stamina training and didn't show much in chasing this game and they held a defensive shape right to the end despite trailing for most of the second half.

Their cause wasn't helped when substitute Eamon Fennell received a straight red card in the 67th minute for appearing to strike Sheehan with his elbow after the ball had gone.

By that time, though, a classy Darran O'Sullivan goal 15 minutes from the end had left the Kerry team in pole position.

Last night was a rude awakening for the Dubs, but it's early days. There were some glimpses of light too. Before the game Kevin McManamon spoke about his wish to lose the "impact sub" tag and his desire not to be remembered for just one game, last year's All-Ireland final. And he duly laid down a marker in the first half with two great points from play and another in the second.

But he was left on his own too often as his team-mates typically packed their defence and invited Kerry onto them, and depended on placed balls from Mossie Quinn and Stephen Cluxton to keep them in the chase.

On the other side, tenacious young players like James O'Donoghue and Barry John Keane wasted no time in tearing at their great foes, throwing the ball around and registering a couple of points.

This was a great win for Kerry, although Jack O'Connor will be worried that his men went 15 minutes without a score in the first half, leaving most of the 45,838 crowd free to roar on the home side who led 0-7 to 0-5 at the break despite surrendering plenty of possession to the Kingdom in that period.

Kerry roared back after the restart with Anthony Maher replacing Seamus Scanlon and James O' Donoghue netting a fine score but once more they found a very physically tough Dublin side hard to break down. Kieran Donaghy, in particular, was finding it hard to escape the clutches of Rory O'Carroll on the edge of the square which limited the options available to the southerners. The work-rate of Darran O'Sullivan kept them ticking over, however, and a foul on him led to Sheehan levelling the affair at 0-8 apiece after 47 minutes.

From there, Kerry dominated the exchanges and avoided the ignominy of a fourth straight defeat to the Dubs on the trot.

Scorers -- Kerry: B Sheehan 0-8 (5f), J O'Donoghue 0-3 (1f), D O'Sullivan 1-0, BJ Keane 0-3. Dublin: T Quinn 0-4 (3f), K McManamon 0-3, S Cluxton 0-2, (1 '45'), B Cullen, D Connolly 0-1 each.

Kerry: B Kealy; S Enright, M O Se, P Crowley; T O Se, K Young, B Maguire; S Scanlon, B Sheehan; P Galvin, Darran O'Sullivan, S O'Sullivan; J O'Donoghue, K Donaghy, BJ Keane. Subs: A Maher for S Scanlon (h-t), P Curtin for S O'Sullivan (49), D O'Callaghan for Darran O'Sullivan (inj) 60, A O'Mahony for P Crowley (66), D Bohane for BJ Keane (71)

Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, Rory O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, G Brennan, C Dias; R McConnell, MD MacAuley; P Brogan, K McManamon, B Cullen; D Connolly, E O'Gara, T Quinn. Subs: P Flynn for P Brogan (44), K Nolan for M Fitzsimons (50), E Fennell for R McConnell (51), D Kelly for E O'Gara (63), S Murray for MD Macauley (64)

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

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