Friday 23 August 2019

Kerry boss Keane miffed by some ref decisions as Super 8s group goes down to the wire

Keane: Felt advantage rule could have been applied better. Photo: Sportsfile
Keane: Felt advantage rule could have been applied better. Photo: Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

While the eyes of the nation were focused on Royal Portrush, 48,723 fans were held spellbound in Croke Park where Kerry and Donegal slugged it out like wounded title fighters.

In the end they couldn't be separated after the most compelling game so far in the 2019 All-Ireland championship.

So, as expected, when the Group 1 fixtures were first published, Castlebar will host a winner-takes-all shoot-out on the August Bank Holiday Saturday night between Mayo and Donegal.

But Kerry also need a draw against eliminated Meath in Navan to make sure of their place in the last four.

"Relieved or disappointed? A bit of both," suggested Kerry boss Peter Keane.

The brevity of his replies suggested that his rule of thumb for post-match press conferences is based on a line from a Ronan Keating hit song, 'You say it best when you say nothing at all.'

Kerry were without their talisman from last weekend, David Moran, ruled out with a foot injury picked up in that match, while Jack Barry remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

Casualty

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Donegal, meanwhile, were without their full-back line of Paddy McGrath, Eoghan Bán Gallagher and their latest casualty, Neil McGee.

Team boss Declan Bonner was even less forthcoming than his Kerry counterpart when asked about injuries. "I'm not going to talk about injuries, sorry."

Keane hinted that he wasn't happy with the performance of referee Paddy Neilan, though he didn't present a particularly convincing case to back it up.

"I thought we fought like hell towards the end. There was a never-say-die attitude by us and I thought there were a couple of frees that went against us that were bordering on not being frees."

But it was the decision to reward Donegal a penalty after Stephen O'Brien clattered into Daire Ó Baoill which upset him most.

The Kingdom boss added: "I felt the penalty was pretty tough. I thought he met him body-on. To me, looking where I saw it is very hard and I'm not being critical of a referee.

"Sometimes you're looking and saying 'Oh Jesus, how did that happen'. I felt he stood him up. What's your opinion?"

Keane insisted that he didn't see the incident which resulted in Kerry substitute Tomás Ó Sé being red-carded deep in injury time.

"I'm not doing an Arsene Wenger on it but I just didn't see it," he said.

He also expressed disappointment that the referee did not apply the advantage rule more often.

"We had a huge one there. Gavin White had a creamer of a ball into Paul Geaney and he was gone. It was wide open at the time and it was blown up."

Geaney certainly thrived in the absence of Donegal's chief enforcer Neil McGee and was the game's leading scorer from play with a 1-4 haul. "That's nice kicking in any game," suggested Keane.

But such was the quality of individual performances that the Dingle man was arguably third behind Michael Murphy and the irrepressible Ryan McHugh for the man-of-the-match award.

"I thought Michael (Murphy) was unbelievable in that second half and Ryan (McHugh) really took the fight. But to a man, they all really emptied it out there and that's all you can ask. We have to do it all again in two weeks," said Bonner.

The ace card in Castlebar might just be the presence of ex-Mayo boss Stephen Rochford in the Donegal camp. Nobody knows what makes Mayo tick better than him.

Bonner acknowledged that this issue will be much talked about in the next two weeks.

"There is no doubt about that. It is a difficult place to get a result and our preparations will start later this evening on our way home.

"It is a winner-takes-all. It is an All-Ireland quarter-final with a semi-final place at stake back here (in Croke Park) in three weeks."

Kerry look to have the more straightforward task on their road trip to Navan.

Keane said: "You would have hoped for four points out of the two games. You have three. So look, it's better than two."

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