Geaney on fire in Kingdom cruise to title
Kerry 3-17 Tipperary 2-10
A ten-point win for Kerry and a first four-in-a-row of Munster titles since the county's golden era when they won eight on the bounce from 1975-'82 means that, at a glance at least, Kerry head into the All-Ireland quarter-final in rude health.
However, after watching his side pick up the county's 78th Munster title, Kingdom manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice agreed that there was plenty to work on for his side as they head into the last eight.
And it was view echoed by Tipperary manager Liam Kearns afterwards. Asked if the Kerry team he saw could win an All-Ireland, the Tralee native was frank.
"In my heart, I'd say yes but in my head, I'd say no," he offered.
Kerry's defensive set-up caught Kearns by surprise though Fitzmaurice would state that the game took on a defensive slant, rather than his side setting up that way.
However, Kerry did have plenty of men behind the ball and Tipperary struggled to the extent where they didn't manage a point from play until the 52nd minute when Kevin O'Halloran screwed one over with his left boot.
The game was long over at that stage but Tipp had looked set to make a real game of it early on.
They had the ball in the net after just 35 seconds. A sweeping move down the pitch saw Jimmy Feehan put through on goal and the Killenaule man slid his shot under Brian Kelly to give his side a dream start.
Paul Geaney settled Kerry with a couple of scores and the excellent Killian Young also got on the scoreboard but there were signs Kerry were coming into their own when Darran O'Sullivan looked to be through on goal only for an intervention from the impressive Bill Maher. Still, Tipp were creaking and Paul Murphy wouldn't be denied on 17 minutes when Kerry moved the ball almost the length of the pitch and the reinvented forward finished well.
Tipp still only trailed by two points approaching the half-hour mark but Kerry would use what was left on the clock to all but put the game to bed by half-time.
Michael Geaney replaced Colm Cooper midway through the first half. 'Gooch' had been forced off with a shoulder injury that will be assessed this week but the second Geaney wasted little time in making his mark. He found his cousin Paul with an excellent pass and he raised Kerry's second green flag. A Bryan Sheehan free and a Paul Murphy point ensured that Kerry went in at the break leading by 2-7 to 1-4.
It was only a six-point lead but the way the game had gone it felt a lot more significant even if Tipp would play with the advantage of the breeze in the second half.
Kearns' side started brightly and fashioned three scoring opportunities but all three tailed wide. Almost inevitably, Kerry's first attack saw Tipp cough up a free which Sheehan converted. That efficiency in attack would continue and they wouldn't register a wide in the second half.
Tipp might have found the net on 45 minutes but Michael Quinlivan's clever turn and shot was brilliantly saved by Kelly as he justified his selection ahead of the current All-Star 'keeper Brendan Kealy.
Paul Geaney grabbed a quick-fire 1-1 next with his goal coming after a nice pass from sub David Moran. That pushed Kerry into a 11-point lead (3-10 to 1-5) but it also brought about Tipp's best period of the game.
They hit 1-2 without reply with Robbie Kiely grabbing the goal and O'Halloran opening their account from play but, even with 20 minutes to play, it all felt a little academic.
And as Kerry continued to empty their heavyweight bench, Tipp struggled as they kicked just three points in the run-in.
The most notable aspect of the final quarter was the return to action of James O'Donoghue. The Legion man hadn't lined out for Kerry since last year's All-Ireland final and he snaffled four quick points as Kerry secured their 78th Munster title with the minimum of fuss.
"It was great to get him back and from his own point of view, that is closure on the injury now," Fitzmaurice said. "He got a couple of scores today which is good for his confidence and again, he is another fella who you would expect to kick on in the next couple of weeks. He has county championship next weekend and hopefully he will come on another couple of levels. That confidence he has for getting today under his belt will be good for him."
After seeing his side concede 17 points to Clare, Fitzmaurice was happy to see that number reduced to ten though he admitted the concession of two goals was a worry.
"Obviously conceding two goals wasn't great," he said. "There was parts of our performance that were very good, there was parts of the game that we went a bit flat and made mistakes.
"They brought Tipperary back into the game but look overall, it was a tricky game and there was a lot of talk out there. It can be hard to control that at times.
"From our point of view, we're delighted to have won the game with something to spare but at the same time with a lot to work on for the next day."
SCORERS - Kerry: P Geaney 2-3, B Sheehan 0-4 (4f), P Murphy 1-1, J O'Donoghue 0-4 (3f), M Geaney, K Young, S O'Brien, D O'Sullivan, BJ Keane 0-1 each.
Tipperary: C O'Halloran 0-6 (4f, 1 '45), J Feehan, R Kiely 1-0 each, M Quinlivan 0-3 (2f), A Moloney 0-1.
Kerry - B Kelly 8; S Enright 7, M Griffin 6, B O Beaglaoich 6; A O'Mahony 6, K Young 8, T Morley 7; K Donaghy 6, B Sheehan 6; D Walsh 7, C Cooper 6, P Murphy 8; D O'Sullivan 6, P Geaney 8, S O'Brien 7. Subs: M Geaney 7 for Cooper (22), D Moran 6 for Donaghy, J Lyne 6 for O Beaglaoich (both 46), BJ Keane 6 for O'Sullivan (49), J O'Donoghue 7 for O'Brien (57), A Maher for Sheehan (66).
Tipperary - E Comerford 7; C O'Shaughnessy 7, A Campbell 6, C McDonald 6; B Maher 7, R Kiely 7, J Feehan 7; P Acheson 7, G Hannigan 7; J Keane 8, P Austin 7, B Fox 7; K O'Halloran 7, M Quinlivan 7, C Sweeney 6. Subs: S O'Connell 6 for Keane (55 BC), A Moloney 7 for Austin (61), M Dunne for Hannigan (67), S Leahy for O'Shaughnessy (70).
Ref - D Gough (Meath)