Crozier calls foul as Sheehan free seals it
Kerry 0-10 Derry 0-9
The rain came slanting down from the disappearing 'Reeks, spitting in Paddy Crozier's face as he tried to rinse incendiary words from his anger.
"Some of those decisions there today were bordering on the ridiculous," said the Derry manager, then pursing his lips as if to contain a building flood. The road home loomed long and thankless before him.
Derry's unbeaten run was over. They had been beaten by a last-minute Bryan Sheehan free, awarded for a mysterious foul that seemed to escape the attention of just about everybody in Fitzgerald Stadium outside of referee, Michael Collins.
"It wasn't just one," said Crozier. "I could have counted about seven or eight of them."
Collins had, certainly, been uncomfortably conspicuous throughout a physical, yet hardly smoking contest. The Cork official produced a total of 11 yellow cards and one red, figures that probably offer an illusion of lawlessness. But this was no faction fight.
It was, simply, an earnest exchange between one team (Kerry) fielding a shadow forward-line against another fielding makeshift backs. This led to a stalemate of sorts, the football untidy, the physicality unremarkable.
It was lifted above the humdrum only by Paddy Bradley's first-half majesty, the All Star full-forward taking Tom O'Sullivan for four points from play in the first 26 minutes before Marc O Se came trotting across on fire-fighting duty.
Derry were playing with the wind at their backs and benefiting from defending in packs. Derry's second score was a case in point.
It arrived in the second minute after Sean O'Sullivan found himself penned in by three Derry shirts and spilled possession. Bradley quickly sent Mark Lynch loping in one-on-one with Kerry goalie, Kieran Cremin. It should have been a goal, but Lynch shot half-heartedly, allowing Cremin to easily deflect it for a '45', which Enda Muldoon converted.
Kerry almost had a goal themselves on 15 minutes when Paul O'Connor's shot rebounded from an upright. Yet, the All-Ireland champions were largely content to loft high ball towards Kieran Donaghy on the edge of the 'square' and survive on whatever pickings fell their way.
The half was, essentially, an exchange of undramatic points, Derry getting to the break a short nose (0-6 to 0-5) to the good. Yet, crucially, they were also a man down.
About four minutes into first-half injury-time, Collins sent corner-back, Francis McEldowney, to the line after what amounted to a rugby ruck had formed on the edge of the Derry 'square'. McEldowney had words with an umpire as he departed, clearly aggrieved.
It looked as though he had exchanged kicks with a Kerry player, but Crozier was unequivocal on the genesis of the trouble.
"Our player, Kevin McGuckin, was kicked on the ground," said Crozier. "And that's what happens when it's let go. The schmozzle starts. But, hey, who's listening? When you speak out about these things, you know you're reprimanded. And I don't want to be reprimanded."
Derry had All Star full-back, Kevin McCloy, on at the resumption, sacrificing Ciaran Mullan in the forwards, with McCloy centre-back and Michael McIvor improvising in the corner.
Kerry seemed undecided as to who to use as the loose man and, while they dithered, Derry played their best football of the day. It was almost 'keep-ball' as they blithely recycled possession along the half-back line, stretching two points with 20 minutes remaining.
McCloy was immense now and he had impressive support from Liam Hinphey. In fact, it looked like a Derry goal might close the deal, but Cremin crucially parried a Hinphey shot over the bar as the Ulster men poured forward.
Two Sheehan points eventually brought Kerry level and substitute, Eoin Brosnan, should have won the game when one-on-one with John Deighan, but the Derry 'keeper parried his 60th minute shot for a '45' which Sheehan converted.
Collins, by now, was tossing cards about like confetti.
A Bradley free brought Derry level with six minutes remaining, but the game was then decided at the other end when McIvor was adjudged to have fouled Kieran O'Leary when any contact looked minimal. No matter, Sheehan swung home the winning score.
Crozier, to be fair, reined in his anger to conclude: "At the end of the day, we had three or four chances to win this game and the referee didn't miss them. You can't blame him for that. It was our own mistakes that cost us the game."
And Pat O'Shea? When a journalist addressed him thus: "Pat, em, Michael Collins?"
"He was a former Republican shot at Beal na mBlath ... ." quipped the Kerry manager. Enough said.
SCORERS -- Kerry: B Sheehan 0-6 (0-3 frees, 0-1 '45'), S O'Sullivan 0-2, K Donaghy and P O'Connor 0-1 each. Derry: P Bradley 0-5 (0-1 free), E Muldoon 0-2 (free and '45'), L Hinphey and J Conway 0-1 each.
KERRY -- K Cremin, M O'Se, T O'Sullivan, P Reidy, T O'Se, A O'Mahony, D Bohane, S Scanlon, T Griffin, Darren O'Sullivan, B Sheehan, S O'Sullivan, K O'Leary, K Donaghy, P O'Connor. Subs: E Brosnan for O'Connor (44 mins), K Young for Bohane (50 mins), D Moran for Darren O'Sullivan (50 mins), T Walsh for S O'Sullivan (63 mins), D Walsh for O'Leary (70 mins).
DERRY -- J Deighan, K McGuckin, N McCusker, F McEldowney, L Hinphey, M McBride, M McIvor, F Doherty, J Conway, M Lynch, B McGoldrick, E Muldoon, C Gilligan, P Bradley, C Mullan. Subs: K McCloy for Mullan (half-time), J Keenan for McBride (46 mins), P Murphy for McGoldrick (48 mins), E Lynn for Gilligan (65 mins).
Ref -- M Collins (Cork).