Kerry brush Kildare aside but it's too little too late as Fitzmaurice's men crash out of All Ireland
Kerry 3-25 Kildare 2-16
Trailing by four points at the interval, Kerry took control after half time to overpower Kildare at Killarney, benefiting from an extra man after Neil Flynn was red carded in the 32nd minute.
But even when they began to pull safely clear, there was a subdued atmosphere around Fitzgerald Stadium as news from Salthill told of Monaghan enjoying a strong lead against Galway.
It was a peculiar night for Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team, having to win as a bottom-line priority and knowing that it still might not be enough, which is how it transpired. They were relying on Galway winning, or their tie with Monaghan ending in a draw which would have propelled Kerry into the semi finals by virtue of a greatly boosted score difference.
Their only win of the Super 8s left them in third place, behind winners Monaghan, and Galway who face Dublin in next Saturday’s first semi final. Kerry last failed to reach the semi finals in 2012, and the loss will cat doubt over the future of manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice even though he has a year to run of his two-year extension granted after last season’s loss to Mayo.
Kildare were competitive for half the match but Flynn red card ended their chances and in the second half an error from goalkeeper David Hyland who lost possession let in David Clifford for an easy goal. Clifford had another huge contribution, scoring 2-7, with 1-5 from play. Kildare finished with 13 men when Mick O’Grady was red cared in stoppage time. In the final couple of minutes Pul Cribbin scored a consolation goal.
Kildare, who lost their opening two matches in the round robin, came with nothing to play for except the defence of their own name and honour, and perhaps handing some impetus to their under-20s who play in today’s All-Ireland final against Mayo.
Kerry were blessed to be even in contention going into the final round, having picked up just one point from their opening two matches. They were on the verge of elimination in Clones when Clifford saved them with a dramatic goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Cian O’Neill, who has completed three years in charge, took over in 2015 after a summer that ended with a crushing defeat by Kerry, when O’Neill was on the opposition sideline, the Kingdom winning 7-16 to 0-10 in the All-Ireland quarter finals. Kerry also won this year’s National League meeting in Tralee, 0-19 0-14. Kildare’s most recent championship over Kerry was in 1998 when they reached the All-Ireland final.
Kerry trailed by six points in the first half but were handed a lifeline when Kildare, for the second game running, suffered a red card dismissal. Flynn, who was having an excellent match until then, receiving his marching orders in the 32nd minute after an incident that left Killian Young floored on the sideline. The referee consulted with his linesman before issuing red.
At that point Kildare were in control and the home crowd increasingly muted as the visitors built a deserved 1-12 to 1-6 lead. Paul Cribbin kicked five points from play, finding acres of room in the Kerry defence, and two scores came from defenders, Peter Kelly and Kevin Flynn, when they sallied upfield and found gaps to skip through.
Kieran Donaghy was unable to influence the game from repeated direct ball in his direction in the early stage of the match, well marked by Mick O’Grady, before eventually being moved out the field. By half time he was one of two Kerry changes, James O’Donoghue coming on in his place and Kevin McCarthy replacing a struggling Young, who had been recalled after suspension.
Once again Kerry were thankful for David Clifford. They were trailing 0-4 to 0-8 when Clifford landed a badly needed point from play in the 20th minute and two minutes later scored from the penalty spot to leave the teams level, after Kevin Flynn took down David Moran.
When Kerry took the lead for the first time in the 26th minute of a tetchy match, Clifford scoring after a neat move, they looked to be ready to take over. But from there Kildare hit a purple patch. Flynn landed a ’45’ and in the 29th minute he was picked out by Chris Healy’s pass and turned his man before lashing the ball to the Kerry net.A Flynn free and two more from Cribbin ended a run of 1-4 without reply.
The sending off gave Kerry some respite in braking up play. Late first half points from Clifford and Sean O’Shea, a free, left them trailing 1-8 to 1-12 at the interval but looking far from impressive. Just before the interval whistle Kildare lost David Hyland on a black card.
In the second half Kerry pulled clear, and sub James O’Donoghue scored a wonderful solo goal. But Kerry went home empty-handed even in victory.
Scorers: Kerry - D Clifford 2-7 (1-0 pen, 0-1 f), S O’Shea 0-5 (0-3 fs, 0-2 45s), J O’Donoghue 1-2, J Barry 0-3, M Burns, P Geaney (0-1 f) 0-2, K Donaghy, D Moran, S O’Brien, K McCarthy, T Morley 0-1. Kildare - N Flynn 1-3 (0-2 fs), P Cribbin 1-5, K Feely 0-3 (0-3 fs), T Moolick, P Kelly, N Kelly, K Flynn, J Byrne 0-1.
Kerry: B Kelly; J Foley, P Crowley, T O'Sullivan; P Murphy, K Young, G White; D Moran, J Barry; M Burns, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; D Clifford, K Donaghy, P Geaney.
Subs: K McCarthy for Young & J O’Donoghue for Donaghy (both half time); D O’Sullivan for Burns (57); T Morley for Foley (58); A Maher for O’Shea (66); B Begley for White (inj 68).
Kildare: M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, D Hyland; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Flynn; P Brophy, T Moolick; F Conway, P Cribbin, K Cribbin; N Flynn, K Feely, N Kelly.
Subs: C Healy for K Cribbin (25 mins); J Murray for Hyland (b/c 36); C McNally for Kelly (46); E Callaghan for Conway (50); F Dowling for Moolick (55); M Hyland for Kelly (61).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).