Kerry 4-21 Galway 0-11
Even when all the caveats are factored this was a blistering performance from Kerry, who exorcised the ghosts of last year’s championship failure with a 22-point drubbing of Galway.
Inevitably it was David Clifford who did much of the damage, hitting 3-6, even though he sat out the final quarter. His third major will be a contender in Goal of the Year.
In a Lionel Messi-like moment he demonstrated his footwork to feint a shot, trapping the ball instead with his left foot before rifling an unstoppable shot into the corner of the Galway net.
His older brother Paudie, who was making his full debut, caught the eye as well with a 1-2 tally, while the third member of the Kerry full-forward line Killian Spillane hit 0-4 to bring their total contribution from play alone to 4-10.
Galway were overrun, much like they were against Mayo when the league resumed after last year’s Covid-19 shutdown. On that occasion they salvaged their pride with a spirited second-half performance There was no such redemption in Tralee.
Having lost they first half by 10 points they lost the second by 12, only managing 0-3 from play in a disjointed half during which 12 substitutes were introduced.
Ahead of their clash against All-Ireland champions Dublin next Sunday in Thurles, Kerry boss Peter Keane was at pains to play down the apparent gulf in class between the sides.
“Obviously you are not disappointed, but I wouldn’t pay a blind bit of notice to the result. The key thing for us today was to try and get out injury free and hopefully we have come out of it injury free.
“To be ready for three games on three consecutive weekends is a big ask. No question about it I wouldn’t pay any attention to it. That result could have gone the other way just as handily. In normal circumstances we would have a game like this behind closed doors as a challenge game with another county,”
Methinks he protests a bit too much. Even allowing for the lethargic Galway performance this was champagne football from Kerry. Maybe their cautious manager has finally let them off the leash.
But there was a return to Kerry values in nearly every aspect of the display, particularly their willingness to press the Galway kick-out in the first half even though the visitors had the aid of the breeze.
Furthermore, they moved the ball with pace and they picked proven score-getters up front and they delivered.
It was a chastening afternoon for Galway, who are now in a bind already after just one round of the league. Unless they at least take a point from their home game against Dublin they look certain to be involved in a relegation play-off in this new-look league.
Frankly that’s the least of Pádraic Joyce’s concerns now as he surveys the wreckage of a woeful performance in which his side looked in trouble as early as the 10th minute, when they trailed 0-5 to 0-1.
Their failure to ever come to terms with Kerry’s running game suggests that their defensive formation, which has always looked porous, needs to be radically revised — and quickly.
As is his wont, Joyce offered no excuses.
“The lads had put a lot of work in but we didn’t get to the pitch of the game. It is very disappointing that we let them in very handily. We were struggling from the get go and we duly lost the game very, very well.
“But we have to give Kerry credit, they were well up for the game. Their movement was fantastic and they scored two goals in the first quarter and they could have got four or five,” he acknowledged.
Joyce’s Galway side face Roscommon in Round 2 next weekend.
This year the best that reigning league holders Kerry can hope for is to share the title, because due to their Munster quarter-final clash with Clare they won’t be able to play the league final if they reach it.
The Kerry full-forward trio took just two-and-a-half minutes to each register a score from play. It took Galway 11 minutes to register their first score and their inability to keep possession from their own kick-out and to keep track of the Kerry runners was placing intolerable pressure on their full-back line.
It was 1-7 to 0-2 at the first water break and though Galway managed to get their hands on the ball more often afterwards their defence was repeatedly cut open and they still trailed by 10 points at the break (2-10 to 0-6).
Any remote chance of a revival vanishing when Clifford completed his hat-trick within 10 minutes of the resumption.
Had there been a crowd there they would have been heading for the exits by then because the rest was purely academic.
Scorers – Kerry: D Clifford 3-6 (1f, 1m); S O’Shea 0-7 (3f, 2 45, 2m); P Clifford 1-2; K Spillane 0-4; P O’Shea, T Walsh (1m) 0-1 each. Galway: P Conroy (1f), D Comer, S Walsh 0-2 each; M Tierney, D Connelly, S Kelly, K Molloy, R Finnerty (1f) 0-1 each.
Kerry: K Fitzgibbon; B O Beaglaoich, T Morley, J Foley; P Murphy, G Crowley, G White; D Moran, J Barry, D Moynihan, S O’Shea, P Geaney; D Clifford, K Spillane, P Clifford. Subs: P O’Shea for Geaney (43), D O’Connor for Moran (43), T Walsh for D Clifford (50), G O’Sullivan for White (56), A Spillane for O Beaglaoich (56), M Burns for Moynihan (61), M Breen for Murphy (65).
Galway: B Power; J Glynn, S Mulkerrin, L Silke; G O’Donnell, D McHugh, J Heaney; P Cooke, P Conroy; P Kelly, M Tierney, E Brannigan; DConnelly, D Comer, S Walsh. Subs: C Sweeney for Heaney (27), R Steede for Cooke (27), R Finnerty for P Kelly (h-t), S Kelly for O’Donnell (h-t), F O Laoi for Conroy (49), T Culhane for Connelly (58), K Molloy for Brannigan (60).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).